Mississippi has voted to adopt a new state flag, replacing its previous Confederate-themed banner that was retired earlier this year.
Residents on Tuesday voted yes to question three on the state ballot, approving the flag’s new design containing a magnolia at the center of a blue background with red and yellow bars at the end.
The magnolia flag was the only design on the general election ballot, and voters were asked to say yes or no. Approximately 70 per cent of people voted yes, according to an AP projection.
Mississippi had been without a flag since late June, when legislators surrendered the 126-year-old state banner that included the Confederate battle emblem – a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars.
Mississippi will fly a new state flag after 70 per cent of voters approved the new design on Tuesday
Voters approved of the flag’s new design containing a magnolia at the center of a blue background with red and yellow bars at the end
The rebel flag has been used by Ku Klux Klan groups and is widely condemned as racist.
The new flag has the state flower at its center encircled by stars representing as Mississippi as the 20th state.
The flag also has a single star made of diamond shapes representing the Native American people who lived on the land before others arrived.
White supremacists in the state Legislature adopted the Confederate-themed flag in 1894 amid backlash to power Black people gained during Reconstruction.
For decades, the flag was divisive in a state with a significant black population, currently about 38 per cent.
A majority of voters chose to keep the flag in a 2001 election, but several cities and counties and all of Mississippi’s public universities had stopped flying it because of the Confederate symbol.
Many furled the Mississippi flag after mid-2015, when a white man shot and killed nine black people worshiping at a church in Charleston, South Carolina; he had previously posed for photos with the rebel flag.
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It comes after legislators surrendered the 126-year-old state banner that included the Confederate emblem, now widely regarded as a symbol of hate
The magnolia centered banner was chosen by the Mississippi State Flag Commission, and was up for approval on the state’s ballot on Tuesday
Until this summer, a majority of Mississippi legislators were unwilling to consider changing the flag because they considered the issue too volatile.
Momentum changed as protests broke out across the US after a Black man was killed in Minneapolis police custody.
The final push for changing the Mississippi flag came from business, education, religious and sports groups – including, notably, the Mississippi Baptist Convention and the Southeastern Conference.
Angela Reginal, 53, of Pearl, said she voted for the new design. Reginal, who is black, said the Confederate-themed old flag was ‘part of history,’ and although she said it never bothered her, she believed it needed to be changed.
‘For me, if it offends my brother, I think it needs to be changed,’ said Reginal, who works in the office of a home health agency.
A white voter at the same precinct in Pearl, Beki Routh, said she voted for the new flag but wanted to keep the old one.
‘If you try to erase history, you;re doomed to repeat it,’ said Routh, 50, a bank employee.
The nine-member committee appointed by the governor chose the magnolia flag to go on the ballot in September after receiving nearly 3,000 designs
The law retiring the old flag specified that the new one could not include the Confederate battle emblem and must have ‘In God We Trust.’
Requiring the religious phrase helped persuade some conservative legislators to let go of the old flag.
The public submitted nearly 3,000 flag designs. A nine-person commission – with members appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker – chose the magnolia flag to go on the ballot.
If voters had rejected the magnolia flag, the commission would have designed another flag and that design would have gone on the ballot in November 2021.
Separately, supporters of the old Mississippi flag are starting an initiative that could revive the old flag by putting the Confederate-themed banner and some other designs up for a statewide vote.
But they face big hurdles in gathering enough signatures to get their ideas on the ballot, and their efforts could be complicated by limited public interaction during the coronavirus pandemic.