Bruce Newman / The Oxford Eagle / AP

Ole Miss takes down state flag containing confederate emblem

University of Mississippi student council voted Oct. 20 to remove state flag because it includes controversial symbol

The University of Mississippi removed the state flag from its Oxford campus Monday because the banner contains the Confederate battle emblem seen by many as a painful reminder of slavery and segregation.

Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks ordered the flag lowered Monday morning. The action came days after the student senate and other groups adopted a student-led resolution calling for removal of the banner from campus.

The Mississippi state flag includes a quarter that is the Confederate flag. The blue, white and red bars are similar to the Confederacy's national flag, which had a ring of starts representing the seceding states in the corner where the rebels' battle flag is now. The state adopted it in 1894.

“This was extremely unexpected but I’m very excited,” Buka Okoye, president of the University’s chapter of the NAACP, told the Daily Mississippian, the campus newspaper.

“Thanks be to God for the University acting and for acting quickly on the side of the students and faculty. This is one small step in the structure change we want to see at the University. I’m positive for the future because of how quickly the administration acted," he added.

Since 1894, the Mississippi flag has had the Confederate battle emblem in the upper left corner — a blue X with 13 white stars, over a field of red. Residents chose to keep the flag during a 2001 statewide vote.

But the student body on Oct. 20 voted to take down the flag, 33 to 15 with one abstention, according to a University of Mississippi press release.

“The University of Mississippi community came to the realization years ago that the Confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values, such as civility and respect for others,” Interim Chancellor Stocks said in the statement.

Stocks said the decision to take down the flag was difficult, since to some the meaning of the symbol is their heritage, with many supporters of the flag saying it honors their Confederate veteran ancestors. The image in question was a battle flag and not the Confederacy's national flag.

After almost a hundred years of disuse, the battle flag became popular in the southern states during the 1960s as a sign of defiance against federal civil rights reform and desegregation. It has remained a source of controversy ever since. 

“I understand the flag represents tradition and honor to some. But to others, the flag means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued. That is why the university faculty, staff and leadership have united behind this student-led initiative,” said Stocks.

The public display of Confederate symbols has been widely debated since the June massacre of nine black worshipers at a church in South Carolina. In the days after the killings, South Carolina lawmakers  voted to remove the flag from the statehouse grounds in Columbia.

The accused shooter, a 19-year-old white man, Dylann Roof, had posed with the flag in pictures posted online discovered after his arrest.

Al Jazeera and the Associated Press


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