Mississippi state flag redesign sparks debate


Pro-Confederate style Mississippi flag protesters in front of Southern Miss. Photo by Caleb McCluskey.

In recent years, some Mississippians have wanted a new flag design, while others hold on to the current one. One Mississippi native, Laurin Stennis, designed a flag that has gained support.

Stennis, of Jackson, Mississippi, is an artist and the granddaughter of Sen. John C. Stennis. Stennis said she moved back to Mississippi and wanted to fly the state flag outside her home but could not because of the current design. 

“I began a period of intense reflection and research,” Stennis said. “One of the reasons we had not moved forward was a lack of an elegant design, which we could all unify around.” 

Stennis said with her artistic background, she had something to offer as a public service for her state. She researched the basic tenets of good flag design and translated it into her flag.

“This flag represents history, hope and hospitality,” Stennis said. “I cannot think of a better way to summarize this special place or its people.” 

According to the Stennis flag website, the flag’s design captures the history of Mississippi. 

“The red bars stand in opposition to one another recognizing the passionate differences we sometimes harbor; the red color represents the blood spilled by Mississippians—both civilian and military—who have honorably given their lives in pursuit of liberty and justice for all,” the website said. 

The Stennis flag hangs outside of a home in Ocean Springs. Photo by Brian Winters.

The 19 stars surrounding the large star represent Mississippi’s admission as the twentieth state in the Union, and the circular shape is taken from the indigenous people of the region.

The centering of the blue star on the white field is an inverted Bonnie Blue, a reference to the state’s secession. Stennis said this is an acknowledgement of Mississippi’s Confederate past without celebrating it. Finally, the white field on which the stars rest represents spirituality and possibility.

“Its strong design coupled with its positive spirit has attracted Mississippians across the state from varied backgrounds,” Stennis said. “This flag allows and encourages every Mississippian to bring their story to the table.”

The Stennis flag in Hattiesburg. Photo by Brian Winters.

A group of non-partisan citizens called the Stennis Flag Flyers has the goal to promote the Stennis flag as the state flag. 

The Stennis Flag Flyers reviewed the history of Mississippi state flags. Director of Stennis Flag Flyers Chris Roth said the reviewed flags represented a time of racial and class distinctions. 

According to Roth, the group’s goal is to promote the flying of the flag through a nonpartisan grassroots initiative.

 “With enough support throughout the state, we hope local and state officials will see this as a referendum for change,” Roth said. 

Roth said another reason for generating support for the Stennis flag is to make the change to a new flag a smoother process. The group asks supportive individuals to fly the Stennis flag, making it highly visible.

Roth said generating support throughout the state for the Stennis flag avoids the lengthy process of deciding what the state flag should be. He said the Stennis flag’s visibility would make it an obvious choice.

“While these flags were certainly of historical import, they were not representative of who we are as citizens today,” Roth said.

Research led the group to the Stennis flag. The Stennis Flag Flyers met with Stennis and decided to endorse the flag, but others in the state are not convinced.

“Stennis flags, stickers and the new flag car tag can already be seen across the state,” Stennis said. “The change is already happening.”

David Flynt of Hattiesburg and member of No State Flag, No State Funds, said it would be a terrible idea to change the state flag. 

“She pulled it out her a**,” Flynt said. “The current flag of Mississippi represents the good and the bad.”

Flynt and the group had been protesting in support of flying the current Mississippi state flag on Southern Miss’ campus for three years. President Rodney Bennett ordered the flag’s removal in 2015.

Flynt said the Confederate canton in the state flag symbolizes home to the soldiers on the Civil War battlefields and has grown to mean home to other Mississippians. The group said the inclusion of an inverted Bonnie Blue on the Stennis flag does not carry the same history as the Confederate canton.

Still, Flynt said he would support the Stennis flag if the public voted to change the state flag to it.

“If the public votes for that flag, that is the flag we get,” Flynt said. 

Stennis said Mississippi deserves and benefits from having a new logo, and the redesign does not belong to just one party but belongs to the entire state. 

“If it’s a good flag, then it can be flown anywhere without a moment’s hesitation by anyone,” Stennis said. “We finally have that.”