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Mississippi Flies A New Flag Without Confederate Emblem

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

There's a new flag flying over the Mississippi state Capitol. After years of protest, the old flag, which included a Confederate battle emblem, is no longer. Last year's racial justice protests led to the change. Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Desare Frazier reports.

DESARE FRAZIER, BYLINE: Before Mississippi legislators voted last June to retire the flag, it was the only state displaying a symbol of the Confederacy on its banner. Republican Governor Tate Reeves signed the bill this week and discussed the emotions.

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TATE REEVES: When many looked at our former flag, they just saw a symbol of the state and heritage they loved. But many felt diminished and even hated because of that flag.

FRAZIER: For many white Mississippians, the flag represented their loved ones who fought in the civil war. African Americans said the banner was a reminder of Mississippi's slavery and Jim Crow past. Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn says it was a struggle for some of his colleagues to vote yes during last summer's debate to remove the flag.

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PHILIP GUNN: I will tell you it was their families. It was knowing that history was going to record what they did. And they did not want their spouses or their children or their grandchildren to be disappointed in them.

FRAZIER: This past November, nearly 75% of voters approved a new flag design. Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, remembers an effort he led in 2001 to change the flag through a statewide vote. It failed.

RONNIE MUSGROVE: I was unsure whether this would happen at this point in time in my life. I didn't want to be on my deathbed when it did happen.

FRAZIER: The new flag has a white magnolia in the center on a blue background, encircled with the words, in God we trust. On each side of the flower are gold bars accented by red that extends the length of the flag. Governor Reeves says he hopes the new one will foster healing and cooperation among Mississippians.

For NPR News, I'm Desare Frazier in Jackson.

(SOUNDBITE OF VALLIS ALPS SONG, "RUN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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