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Mississippi poised to remove Confederate emblem from flag

The state House and Senate met Saturday and took a big step: By two-thirds margins, they suspended legislative deadlines so a flag bill could be filed. Spectators cheered as each chamber voted, and legislators seeking the change embraced each other.

Democratic senators Juan Barnett and Robert Jackson applaud while their colleagues give each other high-fives after the Mississippi Senate passed a resolution that would allow lawmakers to change the state flag.

Democratic senators Juan Barnett and Robert Jackson applaud while their colleagues give each other high-fives after the Mississippi Senate passed a resolution that would allow lawmakers to change the state flag.Credit:AP

“There are economic issues. There are issues involving football or whatever,” Republican Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann said on Saturday. “But this vote came from the heart. That makes it so much more important.”

Democratic senator David Jordan, who is African American, has pushed for decades to change the flag. He smiled broadly after Saturday’s vote and said, “This is such a metamorphosis.”

Mississippi has the last state flag with the Confederate battle emblem – a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. The flag has been divisive for generations. All of the state’s public universities have stopped flying it, as have a growing number of cities and counties.

White supremacists in the Mississippi Legislature set the state flag design in 1894 during backlash to the political power that African Americans gained after the Civil War.

In 2000, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the flag lacked official status. State laws were updated in 1906, and portions dealing with the flag were not carried forward. Legislators set a flag election in 2001, and voters kept the rebel-themed design.

Former Ole Miss basketball player Blake Hinson told his hometown Daytona Beach (Florida) News-Journal that the Mississippi flag played a part in his decision to transfer to Iowa State.

“It was time to go and leave Ole Miss,” Hinson said. “I’m proud not to represent that flag anymore and to not be associated with anything representing the Confederacy.”

Republican Governor Tate Reeves said on Saturday for the first time that he would sign a bill to change the flag if the Republican-controlled Legislature sends him one.

Reeves and many other politicians have said people should get to vote on a flag design in another statewide election. The new design – without the Confederate symbol – will be put on the ballot November 3, but it will be the only choice. If a majority voting that day accept the new design, it will become the state flag. If a majority reject it, the commission will design a new flag using the same guidelines.

AP

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