The flag of Mississippi is the state flag of the U.S. state of Mississippi. It consists of three equal horizontal tribands of blue, white, and red, with a red square in the canton bearing a blue saltire, bordered with white and emblazoned with thirteen small, white, five-pointed stars. The 13 stars on the flag correspond to the original number of the states of the Union. The canton portion of the flag also corresponds to the design of the Civil War-era battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, which over time has come to represent the unrecognized would-be republic known as Confederate States of America. The current design was adopted in 1894.
1.1. History First flag
When the State of Mississippi declared its secession from the United States "Union" on January 9, 1861, near the start of the American Civil War, spectators in the balcony handed a Bonnie Blue Flag down to the Mississippi state convention delegates on the convention floor, and one was raised over the state capitol building in Jackson as a sign of independence. Later that night residents of Jackson paraded through the streets under the banner. Harry McCarthy, an Irish singer and playwright who observed the street parade, was inspired to write the patriotic song "The Bonnie Blue Flag," which, after "Dixie," was the most popular song in the Confederate States at the time.
The first flag of Mississippi was known as the "Magnolia Flag." It was the official state flag from March 30, 1861, until August 22, 1865. The flag remained in use in an unofficial capacity until 1894, when the current version was first adopted. On January 26, 1861, the delegates to the state convention approved the report of a special committee that had been appointed to design a coat of arms and "a suitable flag". The flag recommended by the committee was "A Flag of white ground, a magnolia tree in the centre, a blue field in the upper left hand corner with a white star in the centre, the Flag to be finished with a red border and a red fringe at the extremity of the Flag." Due to time constraints and the pressure to raise "means for the defense of the state," the delegates neglected to adopt the flag officially in January but did so when they reassembled in March 1861. The Magnolia Flag was not widely used or displayed during the American Civil War, as the various Confederate flags were displayed more frequently. Following the conclusion of the war, a Mississippi state constitutional convention that met in Jackson nullified many of the ordinances and resolutions passed by the conventions of 1861. Among those nullified was the 1861 ordinance "to provide a Coat of Arms and Flag for the State of Mississippi," leaving Mississippi without an official state flag.
1.2. History Flag Act of 1894
On February 7, 1894, the Legislature replaced the American Civil War era Magnolia Flag. The flag was repealed in 1906, but remained in de facto use. When a referendum failed for a new design in April 2001, the Legislature voted to readopt the historic design that same month. Since Georgia adopted a new state flag in 2003, the Mississippi flag is the only U.S. state flag to include the Confederate battle flags saltire. In 2001 a survey conducted by the North American Vexillological Association NAVA placed Mississippis flag 22nd in design quality of the 72 Canadian provincial, U.S. state, and U.S. territorial flags ranked.
In 1906 Mississippi adopted a revised legal code that repealed all general laws that were not reenacted by the legislature or brought forward in the new code. Because of this oversight, likely inadvertent, the state of Mississippi did not have a state flag from 1906 to 2001. Nonetheless, the 1894 flag continued to be used as the de facto state flag until it was officially readopted by the Legislature on April 17, 2001.
The Mississippi Code of 1972, in Title 3, Chapter 3, describes the flag as follows:
§ 3-3-16. Design of state flag. The official flag of the State of Mississippi shall have the following design: with width two-thirds 2/3 of its length; with the union canton to be square, in width two-thirds 2/3 of the width of the flag; the ground of the union to be red and a broad blue saltire thereon, bordered with white and emblazoned with thirteen 13 mullets or five-pointed stars, corresponding with the number of the original States of the Union; the field to be divided into three 3 bars of equal width, the upper one blue, the center one white, and the lower one, extending the whole length of the flag, red the national colors; this being the flag adopted by the Mississippi Legislature in the 1894 Special Session.
In 2000 the Supreme Court of Mississippi ruled that the state legislature in 1906 had repealed the adoption of the state flag in 1894. What was considered to be the official state flag was only so through custom or tradition during the previous 94 years. The flag was officially readopted on April 17, 2001.
1.3. History 2001 referendum
In January 2001 then-Governor Ronnie Musgrove appointed an independent commission which developed a new proposed design. On April 17, 2001, a non-binding state referendum to change the flag was put before Mississippi voters. The proposal would have replaced the Confederate battle flag with a blue canton with 20 stars. The outer ring of 13 stars would represent the original Thirteen Colonies, the ring of six stars would represent the six nations that have had sovereignty over Mississippi Territory, and the inner and slightly larger star would represent Mississippi itself. The 20 stars would also represent Mississippis status as the 20th member of the United States. The referendum for a new Mississippi state flag was defeated in a vote of 64% 488.630 votes to 36% 267.812, and the 1894 state flag was retained.
2. Future of the flag
In the wake of the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina church shooting, in which nine Black parishioners of an Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were killed by white supremacist Dylann Roof, there were renewed calls for Southern states to cease using the Confederate battle flag in official capacities. This extended to increased criticism of Mississippis state flag. All eight public universities in Mississippi, along with "several cities and counties", including Biloxi, are now refusing to fly the state flag until the emblem is removed. At displays of all 50 state flags in New Jersey, Oregon, and Philadelphia, the flag has been removed, leaving 49.
Over 20 flag-related bills, some calling for another statewide referendum, were introduced in the Legislature in 2015 and 2016, but none made it out of committee. A 2016 federal lawsuit alleging that the flag is tantamount to "state-sanctioned hate speech" was dismissed by both a district court and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
An alternative was devised in 2014 by local artist Laurin Stennis, granddaughter of former U.S. senator John C. Stennis. Her proposal was originally dubbed the" Declare Mississippi” flag and has been popularly called the "Stennis Flag". As she explained it, the flag consists of a single blue star on a white field, an "inverted" Bonnie Blue Flag white star on blue. It is encircled by 19 smaller stars, one for each state in the Union when Mississippi joined it, and is flanked on each side by a vertical red band, representing "blood spilled by Mississippians". Laurin Stennis stated mission was to create "an image that would better capture our history and hopes without denying or romanticizing our past" and focus on HISTORY + HOPE + HOSPITALITY.
Since its inception, numerous bills have been brought before the Legislature to instate the Stennis Flag, but so far none have passed. On April 17, 2019, Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed a new specialty license plates bill. One of the new specialty plates will include the Stennis Flag along with the phrase, "History + Hope + Hospitality". This was the first time that the Stennis flags design received some form of state sanction by being used in an official capacity.
3. Pledge of Allegiance
The pledge to the state flag is:
I salute the flag of Mississippi and the sovereign state for which it stands with pride in her history and achievements and with confidence in her future under the guidance of Almighty God.
The Mississippi Code provides: "The pledge of allegiance to the Mississippi flag shall be taught in the public schools of this state, along with the pledge of allegiance to the United States flag."