Myrlie Evers began to weep when she heard the Mississippi Legislature vote to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag.
“I can’t believe it. I am so emotional,” the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers said. “Medgar’s wings must be clapping.”
On Sunday, the Mississippi House and Senate voted to replace the current state flag, a day after they voted to suspend the rules in order to bring up the new legislation.
If Gov. Tate Reeves signs the bill as expected, Mississippi would no longer be the only state in the nation with the Confederate battle flag as a part of its state flag.
Under the legislation, a commission would be appointed to adopt a new design for the state flag. That design must include the phrase, “In God We Trust,” but it can’t include the Confederate battle flag.
If voters in November reject the new design, the commission would present a different option to the Legislature in 2021.
A recent poll found that 55% of Mississippians wanted to change the current flag. That number jumped to 72% when the flag incorporated the motto, “In God We Trust.”
Both House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann championed passage of the bill in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
State Sen. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, said the passage of the bill has taught the state a lesson. “We’re white. We’re black,” he said. “We’re from the Delta. We’re from the hills. We’re from the coast. We are one Mississippi moving forward.”
State Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, acknowledged that the Legislature has “punted this ball away in the past ... Right now, in this great state in which we live, on this day, we have an opportunity to push this ball across the goal line.”
After the Senate passed the bill, there was raucous applause. Spectators cheered, hugged and cried.
Myrlie Evers praised the courage of lawmakers. “I never thought this would happen,” she said. “For the people who hold the palm of Mississippi in their hands, for their wisdom and their strength, for them to vote the way they did is all but unbelievable to me, but I am ever so thankful for that vote.”
Mississippi has flown the current state flag since 1894 — four years after the state adopted a new constitution aimed at reasserting white supremacy and disenfranchising African Americans.
Other Southern states followed Mississippi’s lead, and soon African Americans across the South were barred from voting.