JACKSON, Miss. – University coaches and Christian ministers filled the Mississippi Capitol on Thursday, urging legislators to seize the moment and remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag while Americans are reckoning with difficult discussions about race and history.
“It doesn’t take courage. It takes conscience,” said the Rev. Reginald M. Buckley, senior pastor of Jackson’s Cade Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.
Mississippi is the last state with a flag that includes the emblem that many see as racist.
Confederate monuments and other symbols are being removed in parts of the U.S. amid widespread protests over racial injustice after the videotaped killings of Black people, sometimes by police.
Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Thursday advocated a state flag design that would eliminate the Confederate battle emblem — a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars.
“I was proud as Governor to add ‘In God We Trust’ to the State Seal,” Republican Bryant wrote on Twitter. “It will make a great Mississippi State Flag.”
Bryant left office in January after eight years as governor and four before that as lieutenant governor, and he never pushed the politically volatile issue of changing the flag during his time in office.
White supremacists in the Mississippi Legislature put the Confederate emblem on the upper left corner of state flag in 1894, during backlash to the political power that African Americans gained after the Civil War.