Two Republican presidential candidates, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence, both criticized the Army's recent move to rename military bases that bore the names of Confederates who fought against the U.S., military.com reports.
They both pledged to restore Fort Liberty, North Carolina, to Fort Bragg. That base was named after Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, who was relieved of his command after being routed in the November 1863 Battle of Chattanooga.
“[Fort Bragg is] an iconic name and iconic base, and we're not gonna let political correctness run amok in North Carolina," DeSantis said in a speech at the North Carolina Republican Party convention earlier this month.
Back in June 2020, Chism was one of just 14 senators, all Republicans, who voted against retiring the old flag in the 52-member chamber. At the time, Chism totally distorted history to fit her view that the old flag should remain. As Mississippi Free Press writer Ashton Pittman wrote:
At the time, the state senator falsely claimed that an “African American Confederate soldier” had designed the flag. “I can only imagine how proud he was that his art, his flag design was chosen to represent our State and now we want to strip him of his pride, his hard work. I’m sure he put a lot of thought into this design,” Chism wrote in a June 2020 Facebook post.
In fact, a white supremacist lawmaker, Sen. Edward N. Scudder of Issaquena County, designed the 1894 flag. In a 1924 speech to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, his daughter Fayssoux Scudder Corneil explained his motives for designing the flag: “My father loved the memory of the valor and courage of those brave men who wore the gray … and has always taken keen interest in the reunions where he could meet and mingle with those of the Lost Cause. He told me that it was a simple matter for him to design the flag because he wanted to perpetuate in a legal and lasting way that dear battle flag under which so many of our people had so gloriously fought.”
Mississippi State University history professor Anne Marshall describes the context surrounding the adoption of the Confederate-themed flag for NBC News.
The Mississippi Legislature adopted the current flag in 1894, nearly 30 years after the Civil War, and just four years after the state revised its Constitution to include Jim Crow laws mandating segregated schools and poll taxes and literacy tests as prerequisites for voting. … The 1894 flag was thus a visual representation of a Constitution that codified the “redemption” of the state from federal reconstruction. The flag adoption also coincided with the heyday of racial violence in Mississippi when white mobs lynched dozens of African Americans each year.
Ballotpedia explains how Mississippians continued to “codify that ‘redemption’” as recently as 2001—something Republicans opposed to the new flag lean on heavily.
In 1906, Mississippi enacted a revised code of laws, and due to an oversight, the law establishing the official state flag was inadvertently repealed. Voters in Mississippi decided a state flag referendum in April 2001. The measure presented voters with two potential state flags. Voters approved Proposition A, which made the 1894 Confederate flag the official state flag.
The 2001 flag referendum came about after a lawsuit brought by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1993 alleging that the use of the Confederate flag in the state flag violated plaintiff's constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the state flag's inclusion of the Confederate Battle Flag did not violate any constitutionally protected rights. The court had also found that the state flag requirements were not codified in state law and thus that Mississippi did not have an official state flag. The 2001 flag referendum was held to formally adopt a state flag and officially codify it in law.
In 2020, Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law legislation to create a new flag, despite previous opposition. The legislature created a commission that designed a new state flag with a magnolia at its center, which voters approved overwhelmingly. The commission was led by Reuben Anderson, who became the first Black Mississippi Supreme Court justice in 1985.
RELATED STORY: Mississippi State and Ole Miss football players finally have a state flag to carry proudly
The legislature’s decision to change the flag came at a time when Black Lives Matters protests had erupted around the country following the police murder of George Floyd; removing the old flag became one of the demands of protesters in Mississippi. The NCAA and SEC put additional pressure on the state by prohibiting football postseason events in Mississippi until the flag was replaced.
In June 2020, Black student-athletes played a big role in the movement to change the state flag. Mississippi State’s star running back Kylin Hill, a Mississippi native, responded to a June 22 tweet by the governor—predictably referencing the 2001 referendum—that set off a firestorm.
A few days later, 46 coaches from eight universities came to the state capitol to support replacing the flag. And this was the scene when Mississippi State’s football team took the field in November 2020.
Of course, the flag change was only window dressing. The Republican-controlled state government has not done much to better the lives of Black Mississippians.
Mississippi remains one of three southern states—the others are Alabama and South Carolina—that continue to observe Confederate Memorial Day as a state holiday, with government workers getting a paid day off on April 24.
“We are asking African Americans to pay for a holiday that glorifies the Confederate cause, which was the cause to the right to enslave human beings for economic gain," Mary Jane Meadows, leader of the North Mississippi chapter of the Indivisible advocacy group said at a 2022 rally.
RELATED STORY: Mississippi's GOP governor signs Confederate Heritage Month proclamation and dates it ... April 31
Mississippi also doesn’t recognize the federal Juneteenth holiday, celebrating the end of slavery.
Chism’s support for restoring the old flag also reflects an internal dispute within the Republican Party between conservatives and ultra-conservative MAGAs.
The Mississippi Free Press notes that the flag issue is being used to build support for ultra-right state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is challenging Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann in the Aug. 8 Republican primary. The lieutenant governor serves as president of the state senate, and can play a key role in deciding which legislation is put up for a vote.
After the 2020 flag vote, a group of Mississippians—supported by Chism and McDaniel—began collecting signatures to hold a referendum on whether to adopt the old flag, the Mississippi Free Press reported.
But their petition drive ended when the Mississippi Supreme Court nullified the state’s ballot initiative system in May 2021. That blocked all ballot-initiative efforts, including ones to expand Medicaid and adopt early voting. Since then, the state legislature has failed to adopt a new ballot initiative system.
“Let’s not forget the fact that Delbert Hosemann worked really hard and succeeded in taking away your right to vote on the 1894 state flag. He never gave you the opportunity to vote as he promised,” The Mississippi Free Press quotes Chism as saying at the June 3 rally. “The Senate leadership, Delbert Hosemann, refused to pass the House (ballot initiative restoration) bill because he honestly doesn’t want the people to be successful using the ballot initiative, which was what we tried to use to save our flag. Only a Democrat at heart would entertain the thought of pulling such a stunt that Delbert Hosemann had control of.”
While the Confederate battle flag has been removed from state flags, several southern states still have less overt symbols linked to the Confederacy.
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