Symbols, when done right, instill pride and unity. They represent the shared ideals and values that bind together members of a society.
When done wrong, symbols instill division and degradation. They demarcate status and belonging among members of a society.
By featuring the battle flag of the Confederacy, Mississippi’s state flag is a symbol done wrong. It was adopted in 1894 to herald the end of Reconstruction efforts to provide Black Mississippians the right to vote, hold public office, and access public education.
Spend time looking at photos from the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras, and you’ll see that the Confederate flag has been used to signal resistance to Black equality ever since. While some people may not intend to use the flag for that purpose, its association with hatred, violence, and oppression run too deeply for it to be viewed any other way.
Today, Mississippi has an opportunity to choose a new flag that symbolizes the best of our state rather than the worst. A new flag will not rid our state of racism, poverty, or ignorance, but it will signal to the nation—and to ourselves—that we recognize the dignity of every Mississippian. It’s not enough, but it’s important. We will proudly fly the new, unifying flag as we continue to work for a more inclusive and equitable future.
The Winter Institute Staff