A Mississippi mayor was moved to tears on Tuesday as he signed a historic executive order to remove the state’s flag, which is adorned with the Confederate cross emblem, from all government buildings.
Johnny Magee has served as the mayor of Laurel, Mississippi for 8 years.
As a native of Mississippi, coming of age during the civil rights era, he said at the signing that he has, “lived through some things with this flag.”
Laurel Mayor—Johnny Magee brought to tears as he issues executive order to remove confederate flags from City of Laurel. The mayor says growing up in the city of Laurel, the flag is a symbol of division.Posted by Quentis Jones Jr. on Tuesday, June 23, 2020
The state of Mississippi historically aligned itself with the Confederacy in order to ensure the future of the institution of slavery when the Union threatened to abolish it. At the time, Mississippi cited slavery as “the greatest material interest of the world.”
Even after slavery had been abolished for a full century, in 1964 Mississippi was infamously the most segregated state in the nation. It is the place where although Black and white students integrated in schools all over the US, white supremacists in Mississippi state government blocked the initiative.
Mississippi is the place where 14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally murdered; where an angry white mob executed Mack Charles Parker as he awaited trial in his jail cell, and where Medgar Evers, the civil rights leader, was shot and killed on his own doorstep. And the place where countless other civil rights leaders “went missing.”
Just over 18,000 people live in Laurel, and more than 61% of the population is Black. Finally removing this symbol of hatred and systemic racism from its city buildings is more than a gesture.
Mayor Magee sat with tears in his eyes for a full minute before signing the executive order to finally bring down the flag.
He read from a statement to those gathered that flags and banners, “exemplify the traits that define the very fabric of the society they represent…” He went on to say that they serve as “a means to unify, rally the spirit and passion of the citizens to one voice and purpose of the state…”
Mayor Magee explained that the weight of a flag and what it represents is of great significance. The Confederate emblem is a symbol of hatred, hostility, and racial transgression, not to mention good old fashioned white supremacy— “none of which represents the ideals and principles of our great nation, proud state and vibrant city,” Magee said.
“There comes a point in time in the annals of history when it becomes necessary to redefine who a people are, and what a collection of these people represent,” Magee added. “It is the opinion of the mayor of this city that now is such a time.”
According to the Laurel Leader-Call, the removed flags will be donated to local libraries and historical societies to preserve for posterity.