Bring back the magnolia flag to Mississippi

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 20, 2015

To the editor:

As someone who lives in Mississippi, I can see the coming state assembly debate about the use of the Confederate battle flag in the Mississippi state flag. Personally, I think Mississippi should bring back the “Magnolia” flag from 1861.

Over the years, the Confederate battle flag has become many things to many people. Originally, it was an unambiguous aid to organize a line of battle during the American Civil War era. It has become a symbol for entertainers to evoke some sense of southern culture. It’s also a symbol for political purposes. It’s the nature of the political use that bothers me, both past and present.

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Defenders of the Confederate flag have rallied, repeating the quote “heritage not hate” in defense of the Confederate iconography. On the other hand, many see a symbol of hate and segregation. To them, the words “heritage not hate” ring hollow, a cynical subterfuge for racism.

Speaking of American Civil War veterans, one of my ancestors almost died of a gunshot wound received while part of a Confederate raiding party in 1861. If he had died, I wouldn’t be here to write this. We were both lucky. More than half a million lives were claimed to settle the question of slavery in America.

We shouldn’t forget the American Civil War. Its lessons are too important. Burying the past, will just doom us to repeat it. On the other hand, the Confederate battle flag is only one symbol of Mississippi’s heritage. There are others to be had, symbols that are more native to our state.

Getting back to the “Magnolia” flag, I believe it honors the history and independent nature of Mississippi. It also alludes to the natural character of Mississippi. There is the advantage of it lacking the negative perceptions of the canton on the current flag. As for the coming debate, I don’t think state funds should be spent on another flag referendum. This is a decision for the Mississippi legislature, just as it was in 1894. The 2001 referendum was too limited, but it does provide a sense of how some Mississippians feel about the matter. T

To the opponents of the 1894 flag, I’ll suggest this. Symbols are a useful way to draw attention, but have their limits. Perhaps there are more effective ways to ensure political, educational, social and economic equality for all.


Robert Carleton