Group seeks ideas for Mississippi flag without rebel emblem

Honor guard members from the Mississippi National Guard practice folding the former Mississippi flag before a ceremony to retire the banner on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, inside the state Capitol in Jackson. The ceremony happened a day after Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed a law that removed the flag’s official status as a state symbol. The 126-year-old banner was the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem. (AP Photo/Emily Wagster Pettus)

JACKSON, Miss. — A state agency said Monday that the public can submit proposals for a new Mississippi flag, using two requirements in state law: The designs cannot include the Confederate battle emblem, and they must have the phrase, “In God We Trust.”

Mississippi does not have a banner, and will not for a few months, because it recently retired the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle symbol that many see as racist.

The state Department of Archives and History said Monday that it will collect flag proposals from the public until Aug. 13. Those will go to a nine-member commission that will design a new flag. The department said designs should use two or three colors and have meaningful symbolism.

“The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory,” the department said in a news release.

Mississippi faced increasing pressure to change its 126-year-old flag as widespread protests against racial injustice focused attention on Confederate symbols.

On June 28, a broad coalition of legislators passed the landmark legislation to retire the flag, capping a weekend of emotional debate and decades of effort by Black lawmakers and others who see the rebel emblem as a symbol of hatred. A groundswell of young activists, college athletes and leaders from business, religion, education and sports called on Mississippi to make the change.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed the bill June 30, immediately removing official status from the banner. The new law requires a ceremony for the “prompt, dignified and respectful removal” of the flag, and that took place July 1 at the state Capitol.

The commission will recommend a single flag design that will be put on the Nov. 3 ballot. If voters reject it, the commission will draft a different design using the same guidelines, to be sent to voters later.

The Confederate battle emblem has a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. Legislators put it on the upper-left corner of the Mississippi flag in 1894 following the Civil War.

Mississippi voters chose to keep the flag in a 2001 statewide election, with supporters saying they saw it as a symbol of Southern heritage. But several cities and all the state’s public universities stopped flying the flag because of the Confederate symbol.