Authors discuss history of the Mississippi flag

Published: Jun. 25, 2020 at 7:19 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The state flag has been the hottest topic in Jackson as lawmakers decide what to do.

Authors Benjamin Morris and Professor William Sturkey have researched and written books about the history of Hattiesburg.

They sat down with WDAM to discuss the origins of the flag and what it’s meant over time.

Speaking about the state flag, each say it was created to continue a “Lost Cause” narrative.

“The current state flag in Mississippi ratified in 1894, again took place after the 1890 constitution in which the ruling class of lawmakers sought to reassure that old order that they had lost,” Morris said.

They say the “Lost Cause” narrative was about preserving southern ideals after the Civil War.

“That order of power was predicated on a certain set of groups getting to make the laws and another set of folks not getting to participate in them at all,” Morris said.

“Whatever the origins of it, that symbol has been used so many times in acts of hate, in acts of defiance, in acts of inequality that for many people it’s very clearly a symbol of hate,” Sturkey said.

Sturkey believes the view on the Confederate flag has changed since Mississippians last voted on the issue.

“I think that some of the recent domestic racial terrorism that has been so closely related to that flag, especially with the murders in Charleston and even the murders in Charlottesville, have pushed the meaning even further and have made it even clearer for people in a way that maybe has changed since 2001,” Sturkey said.

Sturkey adds it was also used by those who opposed the Civil Rights movement.

“That symbol was also used during the Civil Rights movement by the people who were protesting racial equality, right, the people who were beating up civil rights activists, the people who were murdering civil rights activists,” Sturkey said.

Sturkey and Morris both believe changing the flag would not erase the state’s history.

Sturkey is an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His “Hattiesburg: A History in Black and White” was published in 2019.

Morris is a poet, writer and researcher who wrote “Hattiesburg, Mississippi: A History of the Hub City,” which was published in 2014.

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