JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — After mothballing its old Confederate-themed state flag, Mississippi could choose a new one with a magnolia, a shield with wavy lines representing water, or an “edgy” representation of the Mississippi River snaking along the state’s western border.
The Associated Press consulted three experts about five final designs to possibly replace the flag that was retired July 1. One of the connoisseurs even submitted a guide titled “Good Flag Bad Flag” to the state commission reviewing public submissions.
Steve Knowlton of Princeton, New Jersey, said the winning design should be simple and distinctive enough to be replicated on tattoos and pizza boxes.
“You know it’s a good design if people are getting tattoos,” said Knowlton, first vice president of the North American Vexillological Association. The group calls itself the world’s largest organization of flag enthusiasts and scholars, but it doesn’t take sides in political debates about flags. All three experts consulted by the AP focused solely on visual presentation.
Mississippi had the last state flag that included the Confederate battle emblem, a big blue X with white stars on a red background that is widely condemned as a symbol of racism and white supremacy. Lawmakers decided in June to replace it amid nationwide protests against racial inequality. The change came years after other states had begun removing Confederate symbols from public spaces after the slaying of black worshippers in a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Commission members — appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker — have selected five final designs from nearly 3,000 submitted by the public. The five are being manufactured and will be hoisted Tuesday in Jackson.
In early September, commissioners will choose one design to put on the November ballot. If a majority of voters say yes, that will become the new flag. If they say no, the design process begins again.
The panel has tweaked each design to include a star made of diamond shapes to reflect Choctaw heritage. By law, the new flag also must display the words “In God We Trust,” a provision that persuaded some conservative legislators to retire the Confederate symbol.
“Good Flag, Bad Flag” recommends that a flag should convey an image without using words. Unless the banner is made with double thickness, which is more expensive, words appear backward on the reverse side. More than half of the state flags in the U.S. have words.
“I think the committee faces a huge challenge balancing design and political considerations,” said Ted Kaye of Portland, Oregon, the guide’s author and secretary of the North American Vexillological Association.
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