Mayor of Mississippi town cries while signing order to take down state flag

Mayor Johnny Magee says change in his town has been a long time coming

The state flag of Mississippi flies at the Governor's Mansion in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

For Johnny Magee, change was a long time coming. The mayor of Laurel, Miss. was so emotional when he signed an order to remove the Mississippi state flag from his town that his response went viral.

READ MORE: Trump vows prison time for those who vandalize and destroy statues

The flag has been a point of contention in the town of 118,000 residents, 61% of whom are Black, according to Upworthy.

(Credit: Mayor Magee)

Before signing the order to remove the flags from the city buildings, the mayor paused for a full minute while holding back tears reports the Laurel Leader Call. 

“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 said at a press conference earlier this week. “It is the opinion of the mayor of this city that now is such a time.”

Magee says the flags will be donated to a local library.

The state flag, which remains flying in many parts of one of the nation’s most impoverished and segregated states, was created in 1894, according to Magee and incorporated the Confederate ‘stars and bars’ flag. Those flags have come under fire in the wake of the protests since George Floyd‘s death as a symbol of racial hatred.

The Confederate flag represents the 11 Southern states that attempted to secede from the United States. They operated as a separate government from 1860-1865 when the Union defeated them in the Civil War. The states fought the war in order to maintain chattel slavery so that the South would retain its agricultural superiority built on the backs of the slave trade.

Confederate flags and monuments have been under attack by protesters since Floyd’s death. Although they have been targeted by activists for years, the demonstrations that have happened in all 50 states since Floyd’s death have contributed to a public outcry to have them removed.

Although the Confederacy was only 11 states, there are statues in 31 of the 50 states. 

READ MORE: D.C. protesters try to tear down Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Park

So far, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and Alabama have removed Confederate statues. In Richmond, Virginia,  a statue of Robert E. Lee has been vandalized and defaced. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says that will be taken down as well.

George Floyd’s image is projected on the Robert E. Lee Monument as people gather around on June 18, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!