Flag of Mississippi

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Flag of Mississippi
UseCivil and state flag IFIS Equal.svg
AdoptedFebruary 7, 1894; 126 years ago (1894-02-07)
DesignThree equal horizontal tribands of blue, white, and red. The canton is square, bearing a blue cross, consists of a red background with a blue saltire, bordered with white, and emblazoned with thirteen (13) five-pointed stars.
Designed byEdward N. Scudder

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 (referred to specifically as the "union") bearing a blue saltire, bordered with white and emblazoned with thirteen small, white, five-pointed stars. The 13 stars on the flag represent to the "original number of the states of the Union", though are sometimes thought to be for the states that seceded from the Union, and Missouri and Kentucky whom also had both Confederate and Union governing bodies.[1] 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 Confederate States of America. The current design was adopted in 1894[1], and remains the only state flag to still incorporate the Confederate battle flag.


The design of the State flag has been modified officially two times since 1861. The current version is the longest-used and has been in use for over 126 years.[2]

First flag

Flag of Mississippi
NameMagnolia Flag
UseCivil and state flag IFIS Historical.svg
AdoptedMarch 30, 1861 (1861-03-30)
RelinquishedAugust 22, 1865 (1865-08-22)
DesignA white field with a large red border and magnolia tree in the center; in the canton, one white five-pointed star on a blue field.
Designed byMississippi State Convention Committee to Prepare Flag and Coat of Arms for the State
Flag of Mississippi (1861–1865).svg
Variant flag of Mississippi
UseCivil and state flag IFIS Variant.svg
DesignCommon unofficial flag variant (likely postbellum and used by U.C.V. camps in Mississippi), similar to the "Magnolia Flag."[3]

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,[4] and one was raised over the state capitol building in Jackson as a sign of independence.[5] 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.[2][6]

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.[3] The flag remained in use in an unofficial capacity until 1894,[a] when the current version was first adopted.[7] 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".[4] 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."[8] 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.[9] The Magnolia Flag was not widely used or displayed during the American Civil War, as the various Confederate flags were displayed more frequently.[10] 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.[11]

Flag Act of 1894

On February 7, 1894, the Legislature replaced the American Civil War era Magnolia Flag[2] with a new design that incorporate the Confederate battle flag in its canton.

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.[12][13]

2001 referendum

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.[14] The legislature inadvertently omitted mention of the 1894 flag. Because of this oversight, while inadvertent, the state had no official state flag from 1906 to 2001, however, this defect was not discovered in Mississippi statute until the 21st century.[15][12] In 2000 the Supreme Court of Mississippi confirmed that the state legislature in 1906 had repealed the adoption of the state flag in 1894.[16] What was considered to be the official state flag was only so through custom or tradition during the previous 94 years.[17]

2001 flag proposal

In January 2001 then-Governor Ronnie Musgrove appointed an independent commission which developed a new proposed design.[13][17] On April 17, 2001, a legally binding[18][19] state referendum to change the flag was put before Mississippi voters by the legislature on recommendation of this commission.[15]

The referendum, which asked voters if the new design prepared by the independent commission should be adopted, was defeated in a vote of 64% (488,630 votes) to 36% (267,812), and the 1894 state flag was retained.[20] The proposed flag 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 (various Native American nations as a collective nation, French Empire, Spanish Empire, Great Britain, the United States, and the Confederacy), and the inner and slightly larger star would represent Mississippi itself. The 20 stars would also represent Mississippi's status as the 20th member of the United States.[citation needed]

Since Georgia adopted a new state flag in 2003, the Mississippi flag is the only U.S. state flag to include the Confederate battle flag's saltire. In 2001 a survey conducted by the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) placed Mississippi's flag 22nd in design quality of the 72 Canadian provincial, U.S. state, and U.S. territorial flags ranked.[21]

Future of the flag

Stennis flag proposal (2014)

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.[22] This extended to increased criticism of Mississippi's 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.[22][23][24][25][26]

The Mississippi flag outside of a Mississippi Welcome Center in 2016.

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.[22] 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.[27][28] The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.[29]

Mississippi specialty license plate advertising the Stennis flag proposal, made available for purchase in 2019.

An alternative was devised in 2014 by local artist Laurin Stennis, granddaughter of former U.S. senator John C. Stennis.[30] 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".[31] 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.[31]

Since its inception, numerous bills have been brought before the Legislature to instate the Stennis Flag, but so far none have passed.[32][33] 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 flag's design received some form of state sanction by being used in an official capacity.[34][35][36]

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.

— MS Code § 37-13-7 (2018)

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."[37]

See also


  1. ^ The flag was first adopted in February 1894. However, it was repealed in 1906, remaining in de facto usage until its official re-adoption in April 2001.


  1. ^ a b "State Flags". Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Sansing, David G. (August 2000). "Flags Over Mississippi". Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Mississippi Historical Society. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Clay Moss (June 21, 2015). "Mississippi's Magnolia Flags (U.S.)". Flags of the World (FOTW). Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Retrieved January 21, 2019. It was likely a post-war flag, designed for use by one or more of Mississippi's United Confederate Veterans camps. Then over time, it was mistakenly identified as "the" Magnolia flag.
  4. ^ a b http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/105/flags-over-mississippi Flags Over Mississippi
  5. ^ Jau Winik, "A New Flag for a New Mississippi," New York Times, Feb. 11, 2001, Week in Review section, p. 17.
  6. ^ The Lone Star/Bonnie Blue Flag, Washington Artillery
  7. ^ "Mississippi State Flag - About the Mississippi Flag, its adoption and history from NETSTATE.COM". www.netstate.com.
  8. ^ Journal of the State Convention, and Ordinances and Resolutions Adopted in January, 1861. with an Appendix. Published by Order of the Convention. Jackson, Miss.: E. Barksdale, State Printer. 1861. pp. 89–90. LCCN 16025853. OCLC 1047488108. OL 24350027M – via Internet Archive.CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ Journal of the State Convention and Ordinances and Resolutions Adopted in March, 1861. Published by Order of the Convention. Jackson: E. Barksdale, State Printer. 1861. pp. 43, 47, 86. OCLC 758987648 – via Internet Archive.CS1 maint: others (link)
  10. ^ "Mississippi State Flag - About the Mississippi Flag, its adoption and history from NETSTATE.COM". www.netstate.com.
  11. ^ Journal of the Proceedings and Debates in the Constitutional Convention of the State of Mississippi, August 1865. Jackson, Miss.: E. M. Yerger, State Printer. 1865. pp. 34-36, 174, 221–225, 247. LCCN 10012152. OCLC 48174008. OL 7019017M – via Internet Archive.
  12. ^ a b State of Mississippi (February 7, 2001). "Miss. Code Ann. § 3-3-16: Design of state flag". Mississippi Code of 1972. LexisNexis. HISTORY: SOURCES: Laws, 2001, ch. 301, § 2, eff from and after February 7, 2001 (the date the United States Attorney General interposed no objection under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to the addition of this section.)
  13. ^ a b "The Mississippi State Flag". NetState. February 6, 2014. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  14. ^ Mississippi; Albert Hall Whitfield; Thomas Clendenin Catchings; W. H. Hardy (1906). The Mississippi code of 1906 of the public statute laws of the state of Mississippi, prepared and annotated by A. H. Whitfield, T. C. Catchings and W. H. Hardy: Under the provisions of an act of the Legislature approved March 19, 1904, and reported to and revised. Brandon printing company. p. 141.
  15. ^ a b "Mississippi Votes to Keep Controversial Flag". ABC News. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  16. ^ Mississippi Division of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans v. Mississippi State Conference of NAACP Branches, 774 So.2d 388 (Miss. 2000)
  17. ^ a b Dedman IV, James M. (Fall 2001). "At Daggers Drawn: The Confederate Flag and the School Classroom - A Case Study of a Broken First Amendment Formula". Baylor Law Review. 53: 877, 883.
  18. ^ "Mississippi › Initiative & Referendum Institute". www.iandrinstitute.org. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  19. ^ "Mississippi Flag Referendum (April 2001)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  20. ^ "Election Results" (PDF). State of Mississippi. April 27, 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 26, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-21.
  21. ^ "2001 State/Provincial Flag Survey - NAVA.org" (PDF). nava.org.
  22. ^ a b c "Battle over Confederate symbols continues with Mississippi state flag." CNN. 2016-06-19. Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  23. ^ "Biloxi won't fly state flag." Associated Press (via Clarion-Ledger). 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  24. ^ "State flag quietly removed from campus". The Reflector. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  25. ^ Victor, Daniel (October 26, 2015). "University of Mississippi Lowers State Flag With Confederate Symbol". New York Times.
  26. ^ Barron, James (April 29, 2019). "New Jersey Governor Refuses to Fly 'Reprehensible' Mississippi Flag". New York Times.
  27. ^ "Mississippi Confederate Flag Fight Moves to New Battlefield." US News & World Report. 2017-03-16. Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  28. ^ "Court Rejects Lawsuit Against Mississippi State Flag's Confederate Symbolism." 2017-04-03. Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  29. ^ "Search - Supreme Court of the United States". www.supremecourt.gov. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  30. ^ "Watkins: Stennis granddaughter offers new flag option". The Clarion Ledger. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  31. ^ a b "Stennis Flag". Stennis Flag. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  32. ^ "News". Stennis Flag. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  33. ^ Monday, Joe Rogers Email the author Published 7:00 am; January 15; 2018 (January 15, 2018). "This should be Mississippi's state flag. And with enough support, it could be". Magnolia State Live. Retrieved January 21, 2019.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  34. ^ Lee, China (April 17, 2019). "Mississippi residents can display state flag minus Confederate battle emblem with new specialty license plate". WMC-TV. Jackson, Mississippi. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  35. ^ "Mississippi drivers can put flag minus rebel X on license - The Washi…". archive.is. April 26, 2019. Archived from the original on April 26, 2019.
  36. ^ "Mississippi governor signs bill permitting license plates with altern…". archive.is. April 26, 2019. Archived from the original on April 26, 2019.
  37. ^ MS Code § 37-13-7 (2018).

Further reading

External links

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