On November 3, residents of Mississippi overwhelmingly approved of replacing their long-controversial state flag, which was adopted in 1894 and prominently featured the Confederate battle flag. Flying for 126 years, it was retired in June after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked a national conversation and widespread protests about racial injustice in the United States.
In September a committee, comprised of attorneys, historians, and a tribal chief, were tasked with choosing among flag design finalists, but with two stipulations, the New York Times reports: “The words “In God we trust” had to be on it, and the Confederate battle emblem, which had been featured prominently on the old one, could not.”
In an 8-1 vote, the committee, made up of chose the design by Rocky Vaughan, a Mississippi-based graphic designer. His design, with input from artists Sue Anna Joe, Kara Giles, Dominique Pugh, Clay Moss, and Micah Whitson, features a white magnolia rimmed by stars with the words “In God we trust” at the bottom.
“The New Magnolia flag is anchored in the center field by a clean and modern Magnolia blossom, a symbol long-used to represent our state and the hospitality of our citizens,” Vaughan said in a statement.
“The whole goal of this was to help the people find a flag they can be proud of and a flag that they can look at and say, ‘Yes, that represents me,’” Sue Anna Joe told the New York Times. “This is a golden opportunity for us to redefine ourselves in the right way.”
This is not the state’s first attempt to change its flag and its image. In a 2001 referendum, voters overwhelmingly decided to keep the 1894 design. Five years ago there was yet another push for change after white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Until this year, Mississippi remained the last in the nation to include such an emblem.
While critics of the proposal had contended that removing the Confederate battle flag would erase the history of the South, the change in the emblem was approved by more than 71 percent of voters, according to the Clarion Ledger.
The design of the magnolia, the state flower and tree of Mississippi, had some competition, however. Submitted as a joke by 26-year-old Thomas Rosete, his design featured a giant mosquito surrounded by stars. His “mosquito flag” managed to advance to the second round of the selection process before commission workers quickly nixed the design, stating a typo had allowed it to slip through.
Regardless, the flag gained traction as something all Mississippians could get behind.
“The mosquitoes, it’s their state,” Rosete told the Ledger. “We’re just living in it.”