Governor Tate Reeves has signed into law a bill that takes a historic step to retire the last US state flag featuring the Confederate battle emblem.
Inside the Governor’s Mansion, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signs the historic bill immediately retiring the state flag with its confederate emblem.
“Tonight, I am signing a law to turn a page in Mississippi by retiring the flag that we have flown since 1894,” said Reeves.
Standing behind the governor as he signed the bill was a small group of dignitaries. Among them, Reuben Anderson who was the first African American justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court and Willie Simmons a state Transportation Commissioner who is the first African American elected to that position. Also standing by to witness were House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann.
Reeves continued, “The people of Mississippi, black and white, young and old, can be proud of a banner that puts our faith front and center. We can unite under it. We can move forward — together."
Mississippi has faced increasing pressure in recent weeks to change its flag as national protests against racial injustice have focused attention on Confederate symbols. By a bipartisan vote on Sunday, lawmakers passed legislation to change the flag.
“My mind kind of went back, as the governor was signing the bill, thinking about those people in the past who have filed bills to change the flag," said Democratic Senator Angela Turner Ford of West Point, who leads the Miss. Legislative Black Caucus.
"You know, those who have stood for civil rights and even going back further than that you know those who were oppressed by what’s gone on here in the state of Mississippi."
Reena Evers-Everette was among those witnessing the bill signing. She’s the daughter of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, a Mississippi NAACP leader, who was assassinated in Jackson in 1963. She says Mississippi is not who it was in 1894 when lawmakers adopted the flag as its banner.
“Thank God. Thank God the tides are changing to a unified voice," said Evers-Everette.
"And as my mother said about my father’s wings, they’re clapping to say finally… finally we’ve all come together.”
Governor Reeves, who for years has isolated himself from either side of the debate, says he understands the need to retire the 126-year-old flag but also recognizes there are some Mississippians who won’t.
“They fear a chain reaction of events erasing our history, a history that is no doubt complicated and imperfect. I understand those concerns and am determined to protect Mississippi from that dangerous outcome," he said.
About a dozen people stood outside the Governor's Mansion watching the live-stream broadcast on their phones. One of them was Lea Campbell of Ocean Springs.
“Today is for the people of color, people of color in this state who know what that flag represents... the systems of white supremacy that have terrorized people of color in this state for hundreds of years,” said Campbell.
Now a 9-member commission will design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate symbol and must include the words “In God We Trust.”