As Walmart lowers Mississippiâs state flag from storefronts, learn why the infamous ârebel flagâ isnât even historically accurate.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill Tuesday eveningÂ that mandates the removal of the state flag and bans future use of the Confederate emblem.
Mississippi was the only state whose flagÂ containedÂ the Confederate battle flag. Lawmakers adopted it nearly three decades after the Civil War.
âWhether you are proud of this step or angry with us over the process, I want you to know that I love you,â Reeves said.Â âI am praying for you.â
Reeves had long refused to take a position on the flag, which the Legislature adopted in 1894.Â Nearly two-thirds ofÂ voters reaffirmed the flag in a 2001 referendum, and Reeves has repeatedly pointed to this referendum, saying only voters can decide to take the flag down.
He softened the stance a week ago, then announced on Saturday morning that the issue had grown too divisive and that he would sign whatever flag bill lawmakers passed.
Hours after the announcement, the Legislature began the formal process to take down the current flag.
Reeves said during a speech Tuesday that some people might never find common ground on the flag debate and that healing will not take place overnight.
The Mississippi state flag: What we know, and whatâs next
âI know there are people of goodwill who are not happy to see this flag change,â Reeves said Tuesday. âThey fear a chain reaction of events erasing our history â a history that is no doubt complicated and imperfect. I understand those concerns and am determined to protect Mississippi from that dangerous outcome.â
That Mississippi changed its flag after 125 years was almost inconceivable just a month ago.
Lawmakers have filed bills for years to change the flag with no success. Bills filed this year were expected to die without debate.Â
While a student at Millsaps College, Reeves was a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity, which organized Confederate-themed parties, and attended costume formals.â Earlier this year, heÂ recognized April as Confederate Heritage Month, according to the Jackson Free Press.
Then, video of aÂ white police officer kneeling for nearly nineÂ minutes on the neck of George Floyd on Memorial Day went viral. The death of Floyd, who was Black, led to a national reckoning on racial inequality.
Mississippi has a higherÂ percentage of Black residents than any other state, and many pushing to change the flag said it was time to remove a symbol of white supremacy from MississippiâsÂ banner.
Reeves alluded to that sentiment on Tuesday.
âNow I can admit that as young boy growing up in Florence, I couldnât have understood the pain that some of our neighbors felt when they looked at our flag,â Reeves said. âAÂ pain that made many feel unwelcome and unwanted.â
As young activists organized massive protestsÂ throughout the state in June, Reeves repeatedly deflected questions about the state flag at a press conference. When asked what he sees when he looks at the flag, Reeves replied, âI see a flag that the vast majority of Mississippians voted in 2001 to maintain as Mississippiâs state flag.â
It was the first time since 2015, when a white supremacist killed nineÂ Black church members in Charleston, South Carolina, that aÂ massive groundswell of opposition to the Mississippi flag caused leaders to reflect on the state flag â and whether it represents all Mississippians.
This time, lawmakers decided they had to act.
âPower concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will,â Sen. Angela Turner-Ford, who leads the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, said at a Monday news conference. âAnd what power are we referring to? The power of the Confederacy, that perpetuated the flag of 1894, holding its position of prominence in this state up until this past Sunday.â
Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, spoke Sunday to his colleagues about slavery, and about discrimination he witnessed growing up in the Delta. He said removing the flag helps the stateâs image. On Monday, the 87-year-old who has served since 1933, was asked if he believed he would see the flag come down while he was still in the Senate, or even during his lifetime.Â
âProbably no,â he said. âBut God works in mysterious ways.â
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