The Mississippi House and Senate voted on Sunday, June 28, to remove the Confederate emblem from its state flag, after being the last state to remove the icon.
Lawmakers from both sides had given impassioned speeches both for and against removing the emblem, a decision that had created division among Mississippians, and there had been previous attempts to remove it.
“In the name of history, I stand for my two sons who are 1 and 6 years old,” said state Sen. Derrick Simmons (D), who is black. “Who should be educated in schools, be able to frequent businesses, and express their black voices in public spaces that all fly a symbol of love, not hate. A symbol of unity, not division. A symbol that represents all Mississippians, not some.”
State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), one of the strongest opponents of changing the flag, made a final plea to allow voters to decide through a referendum. “After all,” he said, “it’s their state, not ours.”
On Saturday, after days of tension in the state Legislature, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) indicated for the first time that he would sign a bill to have the Confederate emblem removed, and have a new flag created. Rounds of applause filled both chambers after the vote was in. Reeves commented the vote had been “deadlocked for days, reported the Washington Post.
In 2001, the flag became the center of controversy when voters were given the opportunity to replace it, however, the vote was two to one to keep it.
The recent nationwide protests for racial injustice have increased the tensions toward symbols of the Confederacy, and many businesses, religious leaders, and universities have called for the flag to be removed.
It was adopted in 1894, nearly 30 years after the end of the Civil War, the flag features the Confederate symbol—13 white stars atop a blue X with a red background—in its upper-left corner.
After Sunday’s decision, with a vote of 91 to 23 for a new flag, a committee will be formed to design a new flag. Two requirements for the new flag are that it must contain the words “in God we trust,” and not include the battle Confederate flag. The proposed new design will be put before voters in November.
State Rep. Jerry Turner (R) was among those in favor of replacing the flag. He had hoped voters would be able to make the decision for the flag, but now that that train had left the station it was “the train of unification,” reported the Post.
“I don’t know about you today, but I want to be one of the first ones to get my ticket punched green today to be on that train,” Turner said. “Because I can be a wholehearted participant and fulfill all the statements that I’ve made over the years that I wanted unity in our great state of Mississippi.”