The bedrock state business group called the Mississippi Economic Council — known widely as the “state chamber of commerce” — was heavily invested in the 2001 state flag vote. After the effort failed, MEC president Blake Wilson told The New York Times: “It wasn’t a real surprising vote. This is a long-term issue, and the people of Mississippi just need more time to get there.”
Clearly, Wilson’s 2001 statement has proven prophetic. But it also begs the question some 14 years later of whether Mississippi has “gotten there” on changing the state flag.
A fundamental political lesson looms from the 2001 voter referendum — both black and white voters were fairly apathetic about engaging on the issue.
Black Mississippi voters were conspicuously absent and apathetic on the flag issue in 2001. Need evidence? Look at the Mississippi Delta region — the heart of this state’s black voter population. In those counties, the 1894 flag won a 60 percent margin of approval. Records in the secretary of state’s office show voter participation in the 2001 flag referendum in black majority counties was significantly down from prior elections.