Mississippi: A Documentary History

By Bradley G. Bond | Go to book overview

Chapter 15
BATTLE OVER THE FLAG

Despite the economic, social, and political changes that have occurred between 1964 and today, Mississippi's reputation as a backward and benighted place has remained intact. Hollywood producers and writers, whose conceptions of Mississippi were often formed during the Civil Rights Movement, have perpetuated stereotypes of the state. Major movie releases, even those set in contemporary Mississippi, frequently portray the state as one occupied only by white racists and passive black victims; all are poorly educated and slow talkers. Too often, in Hollywood's imagination, Mississippi roads are graveled, and air conditioned facilities are few and far between. Popular culture has grasped features of Mississippi's past and refused to relinquish them. Unfortunately, as events in 2000 and 2001 plainly illustrated, Mississippians have done too little to alter the persisting image of the state as a reactionary backwater in the nation.

In early 2000, Governor Ronnie Musgrove asked the state legislature to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state flag. Fearful that doing so would provoke a firestorm of protest, the legislature and governor appointed a state flag commission to make a recommendation to the legislature about the state flag. The commission, headed by former Governor William Winter, traveled across the state holding public meetings at which citizens could voice their opinions about the state flag. Some Mississippians wanted the flag changed; others did not. Juxtaposing the rhetoric of proponents of a new flag and proponents of the 1894 flag brings to light the two Mississippis that

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