A (well-overdue) call to redesign state flags

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, Mississippi became the final state in the U.S. to remove the Confederate battle emblem from their state flag. The old flag flew for the last time on July 1 before the new flag was approved by 73 percent of Mississippi voters in the last election. The new flag was hoisted above the State Capitol for the first time in early January. 

The old flag, which displayed a Confederate battle flag in the corner, was remodeled to feature a magnolia flower (hospitality) positioned in the center surrounded by 20 white stars, signifying Mississippi’s place as the 20th state in the union, plus an additional gold star to represent their indigenous Native American tribes. 

Multiple state flags still showcase Confederate-inspired symbols which should have been removed long ago to create national unity and show respect for our Black ancestors and soldiers.

To clarify, the flag most commonly referred to as the Confederate flag, with the blue cross upon a crimson background, is actually a Confederate battle flag most notably used by Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The real flag of the Confederate States mirrors that of the U.S. flag but with a total of three stripes and 13 stars arranged in a circle. 

Strikingly similar to the official Confederate flag is Georgia’s current state flag. Aside from a small emblem positioned in the center of the circles of stars, the flag is identical to the Confederate flag. According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, Georgia’s flag is in fact “based on the first national flag of the Confederacy.” 

Georgia held a 2004 referendum regarding the flag; however, voters endorsed the flag by a 3-to-1 margin.

This use of the Confederate flag is appalling and should be changed. Somehow in the 155 years since the Civil War ended, the state has yet to find an alternative flag that speaks to Georgia’s culture.

Alabama has also admitted to preserving Confederate influence in their flag. The Alabama state flag features a crimson X, also known as the Cross of St. Andrew, against a white background. According to the 1915 Alabama Official and Statistical Register, the flag “was intended by the [State] Legislature to preserve in permanent form some of the more distinctive features of the Confederate battle flag, particularly the St. Andrew’s Cross.” 

Like Alabama, Florida’s flag carries the Cross of St. Andrew which was added in the 1890s by Gov. Francis Fleming, who fought in the Confederate army. According to the Department of State, Fleming allegedly suggested that adding the red X would distinguish it from a flag of surrender; however, the motive to use the cross remains suspicious. 

These Confederate images can also be seen on the Arkansas flag. Bearing three stars to signify the three nations Arkansas belonged to before joining the U.S., the Arkansas flag was altered in 1923 to include a fourth star representing the Confederacy. A 2019 bill sought to redesignate the top star to represent the U.S. and the fourth star representative of the Native American tribes, but this bill failed to pass. 

Although no current flags directly display a true Confederate flag, the evident use of symbols deriving from various Confederates flags is indisputable. At a time when our country is in dire need of unity, it would be wise and well overdue for these states to follow in Mississippi’s footsteps and redesign their current state flags.

See the gallery below for all images discussed in this article.