Historians: Confederate emblem ‘symbol of racial terror’

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 file photo, a state flag of Mississippi is unfurled by Sons of Confederate Veterans and other groups on the grounds of the state Capitol in Jackson, Miss. White supremacists waved the Confederate battle flag amid Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 violence in Virginia, prompting critics to say Mississippi should remove the symbol from its state banner. Critics said the same thing two years ago after an avowed white supremacist killed black worshippers in South Carolina, and nothing changed. The same leaders who control Mississippi flag legislation remain in office. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Historians in Mississippi say the Confederate battle emblem is a “symbol of racial terror” that needs to be stripped from the state flag.

Thirty-four professors released a statement this week saying they expect questions from students about the recent white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where some participants carried the rebel flag.

Mississippi has the last state flag with the Confederate symbol, a red field topped by a blue tilted cross dotted by 13 white stars.

The professors from public and private universities wrote that Mississippi legislators adopted the flag in 1894 to assert white supremacy.

“The threat of racist mob violence has been present throughout American history, and, as seen by the flag-wielding neo-Nazis and racist sympathizers in Charlottesville, the use of Confederate emblems echoes the racist reasoning of whites in Mississippi at the end of the 19th Century, who used terror to impose minority rule,” they wrote.

Voters decided to keep the flag in a 2001 referendum. Confederate symbols have come under increasing scrutiny since 2015, when an avowed white supremacist who had posed for photos holding the battle flag killed nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Some Mississippi elected officials, including the Republican speaker of the state House and both of the state’s Republican U.S. senators, have said the state should ditch the current flag and adopt a design that would unify the state, whose population is 38 percent black.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said if the design is reconsidered, it should happen in another statewide election. Supporters of the flag say it represents the state’s history.

The professors wrote: “This flag does not reflect the entirety of the state’s history and people. It ignores the reality of the African-American experience, and it limits the scope of what Mississippi has been, is, and can be.”

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