Laurel, Mississippi is home to a little over 18,000 people, more than 61% of whom are Black. On Tuesday, the town's mayor, Johnny Magee, issued a historic executive order to remove the state's flag from the City of Laurel government properties—a moment that moved him to tears.
In a state that once declared its official position as "thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world," and listed as one of its reasons for joining the Confederacy the fact that the Union "advocates negro equality, socially and politically," the removal of a symbol of the fight to enslave Black people is a big deal. But the history of slavery is just the beginning. Mississippi was the most segregated state in the country in 1964, a full hundred years after slavery was abolished. Racism has always been rooted deeply in the history and culture of the state—including the state flag, which includes the battle flag of the Confederacy in its upper left corner.
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