Morgan Freeman And Other Famous Mississippians Ask State To Remove Confederate Flag

(Photo: Joe Ellis/The Clarion-Ledger)

(Photo: Joe Ellis/The Clarion-Ledger)

150 years ago, Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union general Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, ending the Civil War. In the years following the conflict, many notable leaders of the secessionist cause, including Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, called for the Confederate flag to be put away as the nation tried to recover from the bloodiest war it has ever known.

Unlike many people today whose great-grandparents probably weren’t born until after the war was over, Robert E. Lee wanted to put the lost cause in the past, and move on. Unfortunately, the Confederate flag and the white supremacist sentiments it represented after the war and throughout the Jim Crow Era are still alive and well today.

Shortly after surrendering the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865, Lee became president of a war-torn school known then only as Washington College. The same day he took office, he took an oath to “henceforth” support the U.S. Constitution. He advised fellow former Confederates to do the same.

Far from being relics of Lee’s tenure, the Confederate battle flags only arrived in the college chapel decades after Lee’s death and were later replaced with the historically meaningless reproductions that hung until recently.

Lee did not want such divisive symbols following him to the grave. At his funeral in 1870, flags were notably absent from the procession. Former Confederate soldiers marching did not don their old military uniforms, and neither did the body they buried. “His Confederate uniform would have been ‘treason’ perhaps!” Lee’s daughter wrote. (Source)

While there was a lot of media attention on South Carolina and the eventual removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds after the Charleston church shooting earlier this summer, Mississippi’s state flag has gone mostly unnoticed until now. Mississippi is the only state remaining which has the Confederate battle flag as part of their state flag, even as other Southern states have moved to strip it from government property, including vanity license plates. Even Georgia removed the stars and bars from the state flag back in 2001, but Mississippi still holds on stubbornly to this vestige of white supremacy from 1894.

Now some famous Mississippi natives, including Jimmy Buffett and Morgan Freeman, have signed a letter asking the state to finally change their flag to represent all residents.

“It is simply not fair, or honorable, to ask black Mississippians to attend schools, compete in athletic events, work in the public sector, serve in the National Guard, and go about their normal lives with a state flag that glorifies a war fought to keep their ancestors enslaved,” the letter says. “It’s time for Mississippi to fly a flag for all its people.”

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale and Mississippi business leader Jack Reed Sr. signed the letter. So did music legend Jimmy Buffett, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford, Grammy-winning producer Glen Ballard, Basketball Hall of Famer Bailey Howell, former Gov. William Winter, baseball legend Boo Ferriss and a host of others. (Source)

Many Mississippi residents claim that the Confederate flag represents their heritage and shouldn’t be removed. I was in the comments section on WJTV this morning, and the amount of ignorance coming from people defending the Mississippi state flag was staggering. My favorite one was the guy who angrily denounced the calls to change the flag and stated that those opposed to it should “get a job,” utterly oblivious to the fact that the signers of this letter are famous Mississippians.

Of all the states in the nation, Mississippi is almost always the last to accept progress. It shouldn’t be any surprise when they are justifiably mocked for placing dead last in educational performance or health rankings. There is vast room for improvement in the state, and changing the flag to remove a symbol of white supremacy is a halfway decent (and easy) way to start making improvements.


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