The contentious Mississippi state flag is officially no more today, consigned to history after a legislative supermajority voted Sunday to retire it for good. House Bill 1796, passed with a larger, veto-proof vote share than the suspension that allowed it, now awaits Gov. Tate Reeves’ signature, a formality the governor acknowledged Saturday that he will provide.
Contention over Mississippi’s flag, with its Confederate canton, stretches far back into history, but the most recent push began at the Black Lives Matter protests on June 8, the largest anti-racism protest in the state since the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. Thousands of Mississippians gathered in the capital city to call for an end to the structures and symbols of racism with Mississippi’s Confederate flag chief among them.
A struggle that had not yielded the desired result for decades coalesced in a matter of weeks. Support for a new state flag flooded in from across the state and the nation. After Mississippi State football player Kylin Hill tweeted on June 20 that he would not play as long as the state flag flew, both the SEC and the NCAA athletic associations threatened a moratorium on championships played in the Magnolia State as long as the Confederate saltire flew over the Capitol.
The Mississippi Economic Council and large swaths of the state’s industries joined forces to challenge the current state flag, arguing that its imagery was inherently offensive to much of the nation, especially Black Americans descended from the enslaved peoples the Confederacy fought to keep in bondage. Religious institutions, too, from the Mississippi Baptist Convention to the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, joined the swelling call for change.
The movement succeeded over the weekend as the newly formed coalition faced the challenges of introducing legislation this late in the session, which the COVID-19 pandemic had already derailed. In