When Mississippi State ran onto the field on Saturday in a game versus Vanderbilt they did so while proudly waving the state's new flag. On Election Day, 68% of Mississippi voters approved "The New Magnolia" by graphic designer Rocky Vaughan to be the state's new official symbol.
The flag replaces a 126-year-old banner that incorporated a version of the Confederate battle flag.
Senior defensive end Kobe Jones, a native of Starkville, Mississippi, carried the flag to lead his team on the field. "I was very proud to finally get to wave a flag that unites all Mississippians," Jones said after the game. "That was a huge moment for me and the whole state."
HAIL STATE https://t.co/FUb7zjvhjM— Mississippi State Athletics (@Mississippi State Athletics) 1604782330.0
The moment was perfectly encapsulated by Shaun King on Instagram. "Today, a Black player for Mississippi State ran onto the field with their BRAND NEW FLAG, without having to compromise his integrity," he captioned a photo of Jones.
Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill was instrumental in pushing the state to change its outdated banner that paid homage to a movement rooted in slavery. "Either change the flag or I won't be representing this State anymore & I meant that .. I'm tired," Hill tweeted in June.
Hill responded to critics by sharing his own experience living under the Confederate banner. "Unlike rest I was born in this state and I (know) what the flag mean," he tweeted."
Either change the flag or I won’t be representing this State anymore 💯 & I meant that .. I’m tired https://t.co/IzizpWLoIg— Kylin Hill (@Kylin Hill) 1592849345.0
Hill opted out of this season after his second game due to an injury. He hopes to be a top pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Lawmakers in Mississippi passed a bill in June to retire the old flag in favor of one that isn't blatantly racist. "This is not a political moment to me but a solemn occasion to lead Mississippi's family to come together, to be reconciled and move on," Governor Tate Reeves said after signing the bill.
It's about time. The new Mississippi Flag has passed, and for that I am glad that my home state is flying the new f… https://t.co/Iv7NCjUolw— Morgan Freeman (@Morgan Freeman) 1604607408.0
After the state ditched its old flag, it received over 3,000 submissions for a new design. The only prerequisites being it must read "In God We Trust" and be free of any Confederate imagery.
The design that eventually won features a magnolia in its center surrounded by twenty stars. The stars symbolize Mississippi's history as the twentieth state admitted to the union. The flower is "a symbol long-used to represent our state and the hospitality of our citizens," the Mississippi Department of Archives and History said.
That's a far cry from the previous flag which featured a symbol of bigotry and oppression.
Election Day was surreal for Vaughan, who couldn't believe his design was approved by such a margin. "My phone was blowing up," Vaughn said according to WTVA. "Watching the numbers just kept rising and I was like 'wow, this is gonna happen,'" Vaughan explained.
Vaughn believes his flag received overwhelming support because of its attractive design. "It looks good," said Vaughan. "It looks great, and I knew if it was pleasing to the eyes it would be more acceptable and an easier transition."
"Every time I see it, I'm, I know I'm going to just stop and stare for a little bit and be thankful," he added.
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