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Mississippi voters decide to replace Confederate-themed state flag

Mississippi's flag had incorporated a version of the Confederate battle flag since 1894.
A yard sign calling for support for the "In God We Trust" flag in Jackson, Miss., on Oct. 27.Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Voters in Mississippi have chosen a new state flag, replacing a 126-year-old banner that incorporated a version of the Confederate battle flag.

A vote to adopt "The New Magnolia," designed by graphic artist Rocky Vaughan, as the state's new flag, got 68 percent of the vote in a public referendum, according to results reported to NBC News as of Tuesday night.

The new flag is anchored by a magnolia blossom in the center, "a symbol long-used to represent our state and the hospitality of our citizens," according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

It replaces a banner first adopted in 1894, featuring blue and white stripes and a Confederate emblem in the corner.

In a 2001 statewide vote, a majority chose to keep the flag, but a resurgence of racial justice campaigns throughout 2020 resulted in a renewed call to change it. One of those calls came from the NCAA's Southeastern Conference, which warned that it could prohibit championship games in the state if the emblem was not removed.

State lawmakers voted to replace it in June, with a state commission ultimately choosing "The New Magnolia" from among 3,000 submissions.

It features red, gold and blue stripes, with a magnolia circled by 20 stars, representing Mississippi's admission as the 20th state. At the base of the circle is the phrase "In God We Trust," with a solitary gold five-point star at its peak, representing the Native tribes who lived on the land that became Mississippi.

The design "represents Mississippi's sense of hope and rebirth, as the Magnolia often blooms more than once and has a long blooming season," the Department of Archives and History said in a statement.

It called the emblem "sleek and updated to represent the forward progression of Mississippi."

The design was put on the ballot for a simple yes-or-no vote. Had voters rejected "The New Magnolia," the old flag would not have returned. Legislators would have tried again with a new design in the 2021 session.

Before Tuesday's vote, 60 percent of voters who took part in a representative online poll said they favored "The New Magnolia" flag.

But Gov. Tate Reeves, who advocated putting the flag question to the voters, said removing it or changing it would not end longstanding divides.

"We must find a way to come together," he said during the legislative debate in June. "To heal our wounds, to forgive, to resolve that a page has been turned, to trust each other. With God's help, we can."

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