Mississippi lawmakers vote to remove rebel emblem from flag

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi lawmakers voted Sunday to surrender the Confederate battle emblem from their state flag, triggering raucous applause and cheers more than a century after white supremacist legislators adopted the design a generation after the South lost the Civil War.

Mississippi’s House and Senate voted in succession Sunday afternoon to retire the flag, each chamber drawing broad bipartisan support for the historic decision. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said he will sign the bill, and the state flag would lose its official status as soon as he signs the measure. He did not immediately signal when the signing would take place.

The state had faced mounting pressure to change its flag during the past month amid international protests against racial injustice in the United States. Cheering and applause erupted as lawmakers hugged each other in the Senate with final passage. Even those on the opposite side of the issue also hugged as an emotional day of debate drew to a close. Bells also could be heard ringing in the state capital city as passage of the measure was announced.

A commission would design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate symbol and that must have the words “In God We Trust.” Voters will be asked to approve the new design in the Nov. 3 election. If they reject it, the commission will set a different design using the same guidelines, and that would be sent to voters later.

Mississippi has a 38% Black population — and the last state flag that incorporates the emblem that’s widely seen as racist.

Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn, who is white, has pushed for five years to change the flag, saying that the Confederate symbol is offensive. The House passed the bill 91-23 Sunday afternoon, and the Senate passed it 37-14 later.

“How sweet it is to celebrate this on the Lord’s day,” Gunn said. “Many prayed to Him to bring us to this day. He has answered.”

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