A Flag for All Mississippians

According to its designer the state flag of Mississippi includes the Confederate battle flag in order to “perpetuate in a legal and lasting way that dear battle flag under which so many of our people had so gloriously fought”.  Dating back to 1894, the design has certainly lasted — 121 years so far.

State flag of Mississippi. Designed by E. N. Scudder in 1894.
The state flag of Mississippi. Designed by state senator E. N. Scudder in 1894, it is the last US state flag to depict the Confederate battle flag.

In the widespread backlash against Confederate imagery following the massacre of six black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina this summer, Mississippi’s flag has attracted significant negative attention.  State House Speaker Philip Gunn and US Senator Roger Wicker, both prominent Republicans, have publicly endorsed removing the Confederate cross from the flag, and last month the University of Mississippi at Oxford and all campuses of the University of Southern Mississippi have removed the flag from official display.

An SMU police officer takes down the state flag, 28 October 2015. Photo by Brittany Stewart, Student Printz.
An SMU police officer takes down the state flag, 28 October 2015. Photo by Brittany Stewart, Student Printz.

New York Times article recently assessed the uphill fight opponents of the flag will need to win in order to redesign the state flag.  According to the article, the flag remains popular but divisive.  A 2001 referendum to change it was defeated after being opposed by 90 percent of whites, despite its support by 95 percent of blacks (these numbers from the 2006 book Mississippi Politics); without substantial change by Mississippi’s whites, a new referendum would likely suffer the same fate:

If a new flag is to be adopted, the simple math of a 60 percent white majority statewide dictates that it will come down to whether enough whites support it, either in the Legislature or at the polls. Feelings about the flag run so deep — as evident from the recent arrest of a man in Tupelo who was accused of firebombing a Walmart for not selling Confederate merchandise — that a widespread change of heart seems hard to fathom. (from Mississippi Flag, a Rebel Holdout, Is in a New Fight, Campbell Robertson, NY Times).

Nevertheless, the Flag for All Mississippians Coalition (NewMSFlag.org) is moving forward with a campaign to amend the state constitution with this text: The flag of the State of Mississippi shall not contain or include any reference to the Confederate army’s battle flag or to the Confederacy.

The 2001 referendum proposed this redesign.
The 2001 referendum proposed this redesign. It is very similar to the “stars and bars,” the Confederacy’s first national flag, though the top bar is blue, not red, and the circular star emblem differs.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger found in a recent poll of 1500 readers that 45% supported the current flag, 24% the Magnolia flag of 1861, 12% the 2001 proposal, 9% the “Bonnie Blue” flag, and 10% “something else”.  Though a popular alternative, the Magnolia flag is hardly free on Confederate symbolism, as it was a symbol of secessionist Mississippi and used by the United Confederate Veterans of the state.  In an excellent article on the history of the Mississippi flag in the Jackson Free Press, Arielle Dreher points out that the Magnolia flag was banned by the US government in 1865 as a “symbol of treason”.

From the Jackon Free Press, 9-15 September 2015.
The “Magnolia flag”. From the Jackon Free Press, 9-15 September 2015.

In terms of what “something else” might look like, the Clarion-Ledger invited readers to submit designs and selected 10 of them for (currently open) online polling.

clarion-ledger-designs

For many more proposed redesigns of the Mississippi state flag, check out the Jackson Free Press #MSFlagDIY project.

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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

4 thoughts on “A Flag for All Mississippians”

  1. Ten proposed designs from one source: Design F and J are excellent. Design I is a curious “Finnish” cross with Magnolia which if it were “adopted”, would be the only state flag with a religious symbol, the Christian cross.

    1. Have you tried asking Arielle Dreher, the journalist making this claim? (BTW, I don’t think she claimed this was the result of legislation – the South was under military rule in the immediate aftermath of the war, wasn’t it?)

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