Confederate Emblem Causes Stir

Voters in Mississippi will decide today whether or not the Confederate battle emblem should be taken off their state flag.

Just as memories of the battles of the Civil War are still fresh in Mississippi, the passions its symbols evoke are just as strong. And no symbol brings a more emotional response than the Confederate battle emblem, so prominently displayed on the Mississippi flag.

"I see honor, duty, courage, sacrifice, loyalty and devotion," says Earl Faggert of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

On the other hand, Deborah Denard of the NAACP in Mississippi sees "slavery."

"I see discrimination, Jim Crow laws," she says.

Georgia and South Carolina address similar controversies last year. Politicians in many Southern communities have been able to reach a compromise on the Confederate symbol. But not in Mississippi. So now the people will decide the issue in a state referendum.

Proponents of Change Flag Eye Profits

Advocates for change are taking a novel approach. Their pitch to the voters: "It's not about race or history," they say. It's about money.

George Shelton of the Mississippi Legacy Fund says the state has to change its image if it's going to attract investment. "This is our chance to show the world what progress we've made and cast some of those old myths aside."

Some of the old Mississippi realities have been cast aside. Blacks and whites mix comfortably at the lunch counter, but changing the flag is proving to be a hard sell, even among black voters.

The vote is costing this state more than $2 million and people wonder how the poorest state in the union can justify spending so much money to change a symbol.

"I think it's more important to pay attention to the education system in Mississippi than the flag," says one African-American resident of Vicksburg.

Another resident claims the problem voters are trying to solve is between the two races and "a piece of cloth with stars on it ain't going to change nothing."

It was in 1863 during the fabled siege of Vicksburg that Mississippi showed it doesn't give up without a fight. If the polls are right, today Mississippi will vote to keep its flag, holding out once more for the Confederacy.

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