A Mississippi state flag waves in front of the statue and tomb of Nathan Bedford Forrest, rebel general, slave trader and early Ku Klux Klan member, during a celebration of Forrest's 194th birthday at Health Sciences Park in Memphis, Tenn. 
Photo by Mike Brown/Commercial Appeal/AP

Call grows for Mississippi to remove Confederate battle emblem

Mississippi is one of the final holdouts in the Deep South where the Confederate battle emblem flies over state grounds. Now, a growing list of authors, A-list celebrities, business leaders and sports legends want to see the symbol removed.

In a full-page ad published in the Mississippi Clarion Ledger, author John Grisham, actor Morgan Freeman, former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, music legend Jimmy Buffet, football coach Hugh Freeze and nearly 60 others are calling on state leaders to abandon the imagery.

“It is simply not fair, or honorable, to ask black Mississippians to attend schools, compete in athletic events, work in the public sector, serve in the National Guard, and go about their normal lives with a state flag that glorifies a war fought to keep their ancestors enslaved,” the ad reads.

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“It’s time for Mississippi to fly a flag for all its people.”

Public outcry against the emblem reached a boiling point in June, after a gunman opened fire inside a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people. In the aftermath of the shooting, photographs came to light depicting the alleged shooter, a 21-year-old white man name Dylann Roof, posing with the Confederate battle emblem.

Days after the massacre, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ordered all confederate flags be removed from state grounds. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley led the charge urging legislators to do the same in South Carolina. Some municipalities within Mississippi have already opted out of flying the state flag on government buildings. But Mississippi remains the only state to cling onto the vestiges of the deep South by having the full confederate battle emblem prominently featured in its state flag.

Mississippi took up the issue during a voter referendum in 2001. That year the public voted by a 2-to-1 margin to keep the symbol.