The last state has removed the Confederate emblem from its flag in the United States of America after 126 years.
The Mississippi flag was designed with the Confederate battle emblem in its top left corner in 1894.
Often seen as a marker after the Civil War for whites to squelch political power gained by African Americans, its removal follows the increasing pressure faced by the state to change its flag since the fight against racial injustice focused on Confederate symbols in recent weeks after Black Lives Matter protests.
Republican governor Tate Reeves signed the historic bill on Tuesday (June 30) at the Governor’s Mansion, immediately removing official status for the 126-year-old banner that has been a source of division for generations.
“This is not a political moment to me but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together, to be reconciled and to move on,” Mr Reeves said just before the signing.
“We are a resilient people defined by our hospitality. We are a people of great faith.
“Now, more than ever, we must lean on that faith, put our divisions behind us, and unite for a greater good.”
The famous emblem has a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars.
Generations of critics have maintained that it is wrong for a state where 38% of the people are black to have a flag marked by the Confederacy, particularly since the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups have used the symbol to promote racist agendas.
A broad coalition of legislators gathered on Sunday (June 28) to pass the landmark legislation to change the flag.
The momentous occasion rounded off a weekend of emotional debate and decades of effort by black lawmakers and others who see the rebel emblem as a symbol of hatred.
Among the small group of dignitaries witnessing the bill signing were Reuben Anderson, the first African American justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, serving from 1985 to 1991; Willie Simmons, a current state Transportation Commissioner who is the first African American elected to that job; and Reena Evers-Everette, daughter of civil rights icons Medgar and Myrlie Evers.
Medgar Evers, a Mississippi leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), was assassinated in the family’s driveway in 1963. Myrlie Evers was national chairwoman of the NAACP in the mid-1990s and is still living.
“That Confederate symbol is not who Mississippi is now. It’s not what it was in 1894, either, inclusive of all Mississippians,” Ms Evers-Everette said after the ceremony.
“But now we’re going to a place of total inclusion and unity with our hearts along with our thoughts and in our actions.”
Back in 2001, Mississippi voters chose to keep the flag in a statewide election, with supporters saying they saw it as a symbol of Southern heritage.
But since then, a growing number of cities and all of the state’s public universities have abandoned it.
Following a mass shooting in 2015 when a white gunman who had posed with the Confederate flag killed Black worshippers at a South Carolina church, Mississippi’s Republican speaker of the House, Philip Gunn, said his religious faith compelled him to say Mississippi must purge the symbol from its flag.
Legislators still did not address the issue until the police custody death of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis set off protests against racial injustice.
The momentum gained from a groundswell of young activists, college athletes and leaders from business, religion, education and sports called on Mississippi to make this change, finally pushed legislators to vote.
A commission has now been instructed to design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate symbol and must have the words “In God We Trust”.
Voters will be asked to approve it in the November 3 election.
If it is rejected, the commission will draft a different design under the same guidelines to be sent to voters later.