Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves on Tuesday signed a bill that will remove the state flag that featured the Confederate battle emblem. The bill's passage comes after weeks of renewed backlash toward the flag, which many have decried as a symbol of racism and white supremacy.
Mississippi's legislature voted on Sunday to remove the flag, which was the last in the country to display the battle emblem. The bill passed 91-23 in the House and 37-14 in the Senate.
In a speech given before signing the bill, Reeves said he disagrees with the removal of statues throughout the country, but said, "I also understand the need to commit the 1894 flag to history and find a banner that is a better emblem for all Mississippi."
"There is a difference between monuments and flags," Reeves added. "A monument acknowledges and honors our past. A flag is a symbol of our present, of our people and of our future. For those reasons, we need a new symbol."
Mississippi residents will head to the polls in November to choose a new state flag. The old flag design will not be an option, per the legislation.
In 2001, voters chose to keep the flag by a margin of nearly two to one in a statewide referendum. But in the wake of George Floyd's death and widespread protests against racial inequality, opposition to the flag grew stronger. The Southeastern Conference threatened to pull championship events from the state if it didn't change its flag, and Walmart stopped displaying it in the state's stores.
As of Thursday, 55% of the state's residents supported changing the flag, according to polling cited by the state's chamber of commerce.
The flag is just one of many Confederate symbols that have been removed in recent weeks. Virginia's governor announced his plans to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, for example, and NASCAR said it will prohibit displaying the flag during races and events.
The passage of the bill removing the battle emblem was celebrated by activists who had been pushing for change.
"My ancestors were beaten and traumatized, and it was under that flag," 22-year-old Jarrius Adams said Sunday. "There are a lot of moments when I'm not proud to be from Mississippi, but this is definitely a moment that I'm extremely proud to be from Mississippi."
Kate Smith contributed reporting.