A white magnolia blossom with the motto “In God We Trust” will fly over Mississippi now that voters have approved a new state flag to replace one bearing the Confederate battle emblem.
It’s a symbolic change spurred partly by demands from NASCAR, Walmart, churches, and college sports leaders. Mississippi’s Republican-led Legislature heeded public outcry to retire the old flag this summer amid a national movement to address the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow oppression.
“It’s a start. And it’s an important start,” said Anne Bailey, a professor of history at State University of New York at Binghamton who has written about the slave trade. “But no one should see this flag change and say, ‘Well, now we’ve arrived, and we can be content, there is no institutional racism.’ That will not be the case.”
Mississippi voters also changed an election rule enacted in the 1890 Constitution to put a hurdle in front of Black candidates seeking statewide office.
Under that provision, candidates for governor or other statewide offices had to win a majority of Mississippi’s 122 state House districts, along with the most popular votes. Without both, the House decided the winner. The provision has come into play just a few times in Mississippi history, most recently in 1999 when the House chose between two White candidates for governor.
The constitutional amendment approved by voters requires candidates seeking statewide office to win just a majority of votes in a general election.
A federal lawsuit by Black residents challenged the election rule as discriminatory amid Mississippi’s tight 2019 governor’s race. Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who won that election.
In Nebraska and Utah, voters approved amendments to update each state’s constitution to remove provisions allowing slavery and involuntary servitude as punishments for people convicted of crimes.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Kay in Miami at firstname.lastname@example.org