On November 3, 2020, the voters in the US state of Mississippi approved to adopt a new flag and getting rid of the one being used for a long time. The flag approved by the voters, “The New Magnolia”, will be shown featuring a magnolia flower and will substitute the old one 126-year-old flag. The old flag carried the Confederate battle emblem on it.
Nearly 3,000 submissions were received by the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag. And finally, on September 2, the one with the magnolia was chosen. The flower is chosen in relation to the fact that Mississippi is also known as the “Magnolia State” as a reference to the magnolia trees that grow there. In a 2001 referendum, nearly two-thirds of the voters reaffirmed the old flag when it was being adopted as much as thirty years after the Civil War.
But, all of a sudden why did Mississippi change its flag?
Well, it is not that sudden.
Mississippi was the last state in the United States to still feature the Confederate battle emblem on its flag and in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter protests it was put highly under pressure to rectify that. The #BlackLivesMatter protests were organized in the month of May following the death of African American George Floyd. A lot of people involved in these protests demanded the removal of statues or monuments, including some Confederate monuments, that could be perceived as symbols of racism.
The protests aggravated to such a level that in June, the protestors brought down a statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, in Richmond, Virginia.
After all these proceedings, Mississippi’s Republican governor signed a bill in June that promised the removal of the status of the 126-year-old flag. And at last, on November 3, the state voters made the final decision upon the new design of the new flag.
How is the new flag different from the old one? And what is so special about the new flag with Magnolia flower?
In 1861 the state seceded from the United States and joined the Confederate States of America. Until then it did not have its own officially adopted flag as per the Mississippi Historical Society (MHS).
Breaking the long deliberation around the flag, a report was prepared by the committee that was appointed to design a suitable flag. On January 26, 1861, the delegates approved an emblem that became known as the Magnolia flag mentioned in the presented report. The Magnolia flag featured a Magnolia tree in the centre.
But, another problem that arose was Mississippi becoming a part of the Confederacy in March the same year. The Confederacy authorised the governor to have a Confederate flag. But according to the Mississippi Historical Society (MHS), the Magnolia flag remained the official state flag till 1865.
The new flag ready to be adopted is created and designed by Rocky Vaughan. On a blue banner with red and gold bars on each end, the flag features a white magnolia, that is encircled in 20 five-point stars and the words “In God We Trust”. Another star on the flag is supposed to represent the indigenous Native Americans of the state.
The state’s flag that had been in use since 1894 was retired by Mississippi on July 1, 2020, and the legislature issued a statement saying that the new design must include the words “In God We Trust” and should not contain that flag.
What do we mean by the Confederate symbols?
When we say “The Confederate States of America” or “the Confederacy”, we refer to the government formed by the eleven slaveholding states of the south that withdrew from the Union in the American Civil War in 1860-61. They seceded the Union because they felt threatened, terrorized and intimidated by the election of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln as the President of the United States in the year 1860.
These states, that supported the heinous act of slavery, were in successful operation under the Jefferson Davis and vice president Alexander Stephens’ government and soon, the Confederacy adopted symbols and their won representative stamps. The Confederate flag is one such example. All these pro-slavery states performed their functions and activities in complete solace until 1865 when they were defeated. The Confederacy included states like Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Texas, among others.
Around the month of June, 2015, a 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Storm Roof was seen holding the flag which enraged the people. This was because he was infamous for massacring nine African Americans at a black church in Charleston in the same month. Then, on July 10, 2015, the South Carolina state troopers lowered the Confederate flag ceremonially.
The flag is also used as a means to honour the Confederates who washed their hand off their lives in the Civil War. Thus, many white supremacists see it as a symbol of pride in the South.
In Virginia alone, there are more than 220 Confederate symbols that can be found on commemorative license plates, military bases, parks, public schools, statues, roads, and counties. Virginia’s confederate symbols also include three military bases named after Confederate war heroes. And as per the reports by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, the United States altogether has over 1,700 similar symbols. These symbols include over 700 Confederate statues.