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Mississippi Lawmakers Vote To Remove Confederate Emblem From State Flag

The Mississippi state flag flies in front of the capitol dome in 2019. Lawmakers have voted to remove and replace the flag.
Brandon Dill
The Washington Post via Getty Images
The Mississippi state flag flies in front of the capitol dome in 2019. Lawmakers have voted to remove and replace the flag.

Updated at 8:43 p.m. ET Sunday

Lawmakers in Mississippi voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag on Sunday, clearing the way for Republican Gov. Tate Reeves to sign the measure into law.

The state House and Senate both approved legislation to remove the 126-year-old current flag and to form a commission to redesign it.

"Today we and the rest of the nation can look on our state with new eyes, with pride and hope," House Speaker Philip Gunn said following the House vote, according to the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger.

Sunday's passage was expected following a procedural vote on Saturday.

The bill now goes to the governor, who has said he would sign the legislation but has not immediately set a date for the signing.

He made the pledge on Saturday in a Facebook post.

"The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it's time to end it," Reeves wrote. "If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it."

Reeves had long opposed the idea of changing the state symbol, which bears the Confederate battle flag at the top left corner, unless it was voted on by Mississippians. In 2001, voters in the state had just that chance, but they ultimately voted to keep the flag as it was designed.

The new legislation calls for the removal of the current flag within 15 days at government buildings and for a commission to design a new flag in which all Confederate symbols will be removed and the words "In God We Trust" must be used. The new design will be put to a public vote in November. If voters reject it, the commission will try again.

"By changing our flag, we don't abandon our founding principles," Republican Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White said on Saturday, according to The Washington Post. "We embrace them more fully by doing what is right. We're not moving further away from our Founding Fathers' visions. We're moving closer to them. We're not destroying our heritage; we're fulfilling it."

It comes as Confederate monuments of all kinds are being banned, removed and transformed across the nation after protests and demonstrations erupted in response to systemic racism against Black Americans. NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at all of its events, protesters toppled a statue of Confederate Gen. Albert Pike in Washington, D.C., artists and demonstrators transformed a Confederate monument in Richmond, Va., and members of Congress have proposed renaming Army installations with Confederate names and removing Confederate symbols.

"We should not be under any illusion that a vote in the Capitol is the end of what must be done — the job before us is to bring the state together and I intend to work night and day to do it," Reeves wrote on Facebook on Saturday.

"It will be harder than recovering from tornadoes, harder than historic floods, harder than agency corruption, or prison riots or the coming hurricane season — even harder than battling the Coronavirus."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.