(CN) — A commission on Wednesday chose a new Mississippi state flag design featuring the magnolia flower to replace the Confederate-themed flag brought down by lawmakers two months ago in response to nationwide calls for racial equality.
Members of the state-appointed commission voted 8-1 to send The New Magnolia Flag to the governor and state Legislature over a second design finalist, The Great River Flag. Mississippi voters will have the final say on whether to approve the new flag design in the November general election.
“Our flag should reflect the beauty and good in all of us,” said Rocky Vaughan, who designed the flag selected by the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag. “The New Magnolia Flag represents the warmth and strength of the good people of Mississippi. Now is the time we show the world that we’re from Mississippi, the Magnolia State.”
Vaughan’s flag design, favored by 60% of online polltakers, features a blue banner with red and gold bars on each end, and a white magnolia in the center with 21 stars surrounding it. At a meeting Wednesday, commissioners debated sending the final two flag designs to voters, but ultimately opted on sending only the magnolia design through.
“We were especially gratified to see the public engage so significantly in the process,” said Katie Blount, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. “The commissioners worked hard, listening to the experts and to the people, and they came up with a great design to present to voters on Nov. 3.”
A majority of the Republican-controlled Mississippi Legislature passed the historic measure to change the 126-year-old flag in late June. The bill called for a commission to redesign a new state flag that must have the words “In God We Trust,” and without the Confederate symbol, by September.
If voters reject the design, the commission would be tasked with introducing a new flag design to the Legislature during the 2021 session.
Calls for racial justice and police reform sparked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police officers in May, have led to the removal of Confederate monuments nationwide.
Mississippi was the only state in the nation to still have a flag featuring the Confederate battle emblem, a symbol that stirs deep emotions among many Blacks who associate it with white supremacist groups.
Attempts to change the state flag in the Legislature have failed since at least 1988, according to the Mississippi Historical Society. Legal challenges have also failed.
Republican Governor Tate Reed, who signed the bill officially retiring the Confederate symbol from the state flag in June, said then that the removal of the symbol would ensure all residents that “their state recognizes the equal dignity and honor that they possess as a child of the South.”
“There is a difference between monuments and flags,” Reeves said. “A monument acknowledges and honors our past, a flag is a symbol of our present, of our people, and of our future. For those reasons, we need a new symbol.”
Commissioners had narrowed about 3,000 submissions to 147 last month, before narrowing their top five and eventual finalist.
The New Magnolia Flag could be seen flying over the Old State Capitol building after the meeting Wednesday.