Group behind controversial ‘Make America Great Again’ billboard speaks out

PEARL, MS (WJTV) — The mayor of Pearl, Mississippi, says a controversial billboard that can be spotted on Highway 80 is coming down.

The billboard, which says “Make America Great Again” with an image from the Civil Rights era, was paid for by For Freedoms.

The organization is based in Washington, D.C.

The picture used in the background of the billboard was taken on Blood Sunday in 1965. Civil rights activists were fighting for the right to vote.

NBC4’s sister station WJTV got the chance to speak with one of the co-founders of the organization behind it.

Hank Thomas is one of the artists behind the billboard that incorporates the campaign slogan of President-elect Donald Trump and the historic photo.

“We don’t know much about Donald Trump except that he likes attention and he will say anything to get it,” said Hank Willis Thomas, co-founder of For Freedoms. “I really want us to start to ask harder questions like, ‘Well, what do you mean when you say make America great again?’ That has not yet been asked.”

Gov. Phil Bryant even issued a statement about the billboard.

“This is reprehensible. It’s disappointing that this group would use this image in an attempt to divide the country,” he said.

The group said they chose to put the billboard in Mississippi because of its history in the Civil Rights Movement.

“We really thought this was the battle ground on which our country changed for the better, and it seems as though those conversations don’t continue in that part of the country.”

Pearl Mayor Brad Rogers hopes to have the sign down by Monday or Tuesday at the latest.

“Of course I don’t necessarily approve of the sign, but according to the First Amendment, and First Amendment protection, there’s not a whole lot the city can do,” Mayor Rogers said.

Even though he plans to take it down, Mayor Rogers said there is nothing illegal about the sign. He called Lamar Advertising and asked for it to be removed.

“We don’t want to be dragged into something. No matter the fact that it wasn’t meant to be controversial, good gentleman and put it up to put people bring people to their website and I think he has probably done that, but he’s done it in a way that we don’t approve of,” he said.

“Beginning this conversation, I hope it doesn’t end when this billboard comes down, but that its actually just the beginning of a longer deeper conversation that will make our country better,” Thomas said. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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