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Mississippi Legislature makes the new state flag official

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The new state flag flies over Vicksburg City Hall. (photo by David Day)

The Mississippi Legislature has voted to make the new state flag official.

Tuesday, the state House of Representatives voted 119-1 to approve the flag design that went through a rigorous selection process last year and was approved by 71% of Mississippi voters in November.

Wednesday, state senators voted 38-7 to pass House Bill 1, and the measure is on its way to Gov. Tate Reeves for his signature.

After years of rancorous debate over Mississippi’s old state flag, the legislature took steps last summer to change it. The old flag, adopted in 1893 during the Jim Crow era, was the last in the nation to display a Confederate battle emblem. Critics of the old flag said it did not represent a huge portion of the state’s residents, particularly those of African American descent to whom it was a direct affront.

A referendum in 2001 kept the old flag in place, but last year, during a spring and summer of social justice protests across the nation, Mississippi lawmakers took up the debate.

One by one, venerable Mississippi organizations such as the Mississippi Baptist Convention expressed their beliefs that the flag should be changed. Other organizations such the Southeastern Conference added economic pressure by effectively boycotting the state. In a historic vote in late June, the legislature passed a bill retiring the old flag and outlining the process by which a new flag would be adopted, and the governor signed the bill June 30, 2020.

Mississippians submitted thousands of potential designs, and several selection rounds later, a new flag design was put on the November 2019 ballot for the people to accept or reject. The state’s voters overwhelmingly accepted the new design.

Wednesday’s passage of House Bill 1 is the final act in Mississippi’s getting a new state flag. The flag will be ceremoniously raised at the State Capitol in Jackson after the governor signs the bill into law.

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