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Members of the Mississippi State Flag Commission after a meeting, Sept. 2, 2020, at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, Miss., during which they voted for the New Magnolia Flag as the choice to go on the November ballot to be voted upon to be the new state flag.

Rogelio V. Solis/The Associated Press

Mississippi on Wednesday took a big step toward replacing its old state flag dominated by the Confederate “stars and bars” when a commission selected a new design featuring a magnolia – the state flower – to replace imagery seen by many as racist.

The “New Magnolia Flag,” whose selection was announced by a Mississippi Department of Archives and History panel, now requires the approval of Governor Tate Reeves. If approved as expected, the design will go to the voters on the Nov. 3 ballot for final adoption as the state flag.

While long controversial, the old state flag – adopted in 1894 – came to its demise during the latest wave of anti-Confederate sentiment spurred by the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police.

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Floyd’s killing helped revive a long-simmering conflict between those seeking to abolish Confederate statues and other images they see as symbols honouring slavery, and those who believe the symbols honour the traditions and history of the South.

Under a new Mississippi law, the state flag cannot contain the Confederate battle flag image and it must include the words “In God We Trust,” according to the committee’s website.

“Our flag should reflect the beauty and good in all of us. It should represent a state that deserves a positive image,” the designer, Rocky Vaughan, said in a release.

“The New Magnolia Flag represents the warmth and strength of the good people of Mississippi,” he said. “Now is the time we show the world that we’re from Mississippi, the Magnolia State.”

The design shows the state flower on a blue background framed by red bars, with a ring of stars around it. The image was selected out of about 3,000 submissions of proposed designs from the public. It beat out a second finalist, a shield crowned with a single star on a navy blue field.

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