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SSSL united with removing Confederate battle flag

The Society for the Study of Southern Literature (SSSL) has put forth a petition that calls for the state of Mississippi to remove the Confederate battle flag from the saltire of its official state flag. SSSL is an academic organization concerned with inquiry and discussion of literature, history and culture of the U.S. South and its position within a national and global context.

We are not a political organization; we do not have any political expectations or prerequisites for our members, and a public gesture such as this is unprecedented in the history of our organization. However, in the light of the recent debates over the confederate flag that have emerged in the aftermath of the tragedy at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, we feel the urgent need to request that the state of Mississippi adopt a new and inclusive state flag, without the Confederate flag, which has historically been — and is currently being — used as a symbol of white supremacy.

Our decision to speak out comes from a discussion at our recent biennial meeting where we recognized the harmful misappropriation of the confederate flag as a definitive part of Southern culture. With Gov. Phil Bryant’s recent official sanction of Confederate Heritage Month and the continued presence of the Confederate flag on state property, the legislature endorses cultural symbols of a traumatic past that subordinated African-Americans. Over 100 of us from across the country have signed the petition that we have sent to the governor and lieutenant governor of Mississippi.

As dedicated teachers, students and scholars we recognize the complicated and fraught history of U.S. race relations, and therefore we realize the harm that state-sponsored endorsement of the confederate flag inflicts on African-Americans as well as all those who do not want a symbol used for violence and oppression to represent their state. We stand with the Universities of Mississippi and Southern Mississippi and other educational institutions in our call for change and inclusivity.

To view the petition, please visit www.ipetitions.com/petition/SSSL-mississippi-state-flag.

Elizabeth Rodriguez Fielder

University of Mississippi student and SSSL member