JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – At the State Capitol, lawmakers were busy finalizing bills that must get to Governor Reeves by Friday. But on many minds was satisfaction for passing House Bill 1796.
For 126 years the state flag showing the Confederate emblem has been in the very Capitol Building dozens of African American lawmakers today walk by remembering the history behind the emblem. A burden at times invisible to their colleagues.
On the front lines fighting for the flag to come down was House Minority leader Robert Johnson and Senator John Horhn.
“I was always taught this is a flag you should be afraid of,” Rep. Johnson (D) said. “Anybody who waves it is probably somebody who is going to hurt you. Somebody who has ill feelings about you. That’s why it has to come down.”
“Violence perpetrated against African Americans with the flag, the image is an image of White Supremacy,” Sen. Horhn added.
Both born in the civil rights era, this flag coming down lifts a burden that’s multi-generations old for the two lawmakers.
“My father was a civil rights activist, he was heavily involved in the labor movement and he was calling me to say congratulations,” Sen Horhn told us. “And thanking me for the work that I did.”
“We’ve lived and served under a flag of division, a flag of terror and a lot of bad things,” Rep. Johnson said. “It’s time for us to go forward as Mississippians.”
On the financial side, the Mississippi Economic Council dealt with the threats of boycotts in sports and businesses if lawmakers didn’t act now.
“When it got down to the NCAA saying we’re not going to hold regionals anymore here that’s a big impact in places like Starkville, Oxford, and Hattiesburg,” Council President Scott Waller explained. “It’s part of their economy. Thank goodness they moved quickly getting the flag changed and we can start thinking about what’s ahead.”
In the past several weeks Waller and the economic council received over 100 signatures from CEO’s and small business owners supporting a new flag.
“This is the Mississippians saying we got to make this change for our business to be successful,” Waller continued. “For our companies to want to continue to make investments here.”
In the very room, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann spoke to us about the future this move brings for Mississippi while holding the very pen Governor Reeves used to sign it into action.
“History won’t really know what we did today, but who will feel the effects of our children and our grandchildren,” Lt. Governor Hosemann said. “It was time for our state to remove one barrier of us working together.”
Officially the state flag that displays the Confederate emblem will be retired on July 15th and then a commission of nine people appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House will pick a new design that voters will choose to approve or disapprove in November.
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