Friday, January 22, 2021

US State of Mississippi Adopts New Flag

The new official flag of the US state of Mississippi, approved in a popular referendum on November 3, 2020 and formally adopted January 11, 2021. Features a white magnolia flower on a dark blue background, surrounded by 20 white stars topped with a golden star-like symbol. The left and right sides of the flag are red, separated from the blue center by thin golden borders.
Mississippi's new flag, officially adopted January 11, 2021 (public domain graphic).

50 State Flags Again

For the first time since last June, every one of the US's 50 states has its own flag. Last year, Mississippi became the only flagless state after its government voted to withdraw its former banner, controversial for incorporating the battle emblem of 19th Century pro-slavery separatists.

Learn More: The 3 Time Periods When Mississippi Had No Flag

As part of the same legislation, a new flag design was drawn up and put to a vote on November 3, the same day as the 2020 US presidential election. That referendum passed in a landslide, with 71% of votes supporting the new flag and 26% opposing it (another 2% of voters didn't mark any choice for the flag question).

Former flag of the US state of Mississippi, retired in June 2020. Blue, white, and red horizontal bars with one corner covered by the battle emblem of the 19th-century pro-slavery Confederate States of America rebels, two diagonal blue crossbars with white stars inside, over a red background.
Previous flag of Mississippi state, officially retired in June 2020 (public domain graphic)

Under the referendum rules, the new flag wouldn't be adopted immediately, but if approved, the state legislature would be obligated to write it into law during its next session. After some delays in the official certification of election results - in part because of county elections officials getting sick with COVID-19 - the referendum's outcome was finalized December 3

Learn More: The 3 Geography Referendums Held Alongside the 2020 US Presidential Election

Once its new legislative session began in 2021, the state House of Representatives passed a bill to adopt the new flag on Jan. 5. The state Senate approved the bill the next day, and the Governor of Mississippi signed it into law on Jan. 11.


The New Magnolia Flag

The new state flag, which the referendum called the "In God We Trust flag" - after the requirement that it include that official United States motto on it as an olive branch to conservatives - is also known as "The New Magnolia" or just the "Magnolia Flag". The design features variations of the red and blue colors from the US flag, plus two gold stripes for the state's "rich cultural history", centered around a magnolia flower, the official state flower of Mississippi.

One version of the first flag of Mississippi state, from when it was part of the Confederacy during the US Civil War. Features a blooming magnolia tree over a white background, with a white star on a blue square in the corner and a red border around the whole thing.
One version of the Civil War-era flag of Mississippi, featuring a magnolia tree (public domain graphic)
The nickname also honors the historical Mississippi "Magnolia Flag" - actually a series of related flag designs - used by Mississippi in the 1800s, before it adopted the more controversial design as a symbol of defiance against the union government, which had forced Mississippi and other southern states to end slavery after winning the US Civil War.

On the new flag, the magnolia flower is surrounded by twenty white stars, representing the number of states in the US when Mississippi joined, plus a golden star-like symbol drawn from traditional art of the Choctaw people to represent the region's original inhabitants.


State Flag Changes: Who's Next?

Mississippi has the country's newest state flag for now, but that might not be the case for long: Another US state, Massachusetts, has already begun the process of re-drafting its state seal and motto, both of which appear prominently on its state flag. 

Similarly to Mississippi's flag change and Rhode Island's name change, Massachusetts's move is also tied up with the country's new determination to face its racist past: The state seal and motto both involve references glorifying violence against indigenous Native Americans by the state's founders.

Stay tuned to PolGeoNow to hear about the changes to the Massachusetts flag when they happen. You can also filter PolGeoNow news coverage to only show articles about flag changes!