NAACP says it won’t boycott state

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 6, 2001

JACKSON (AP) – NAACP president Kweisi Mfume said Thursday he is not recommending an economic boycott of Mississippi over voters’ decision to keep a Confederate symbol on the state’s flag.

But Mfume, who met behind closed doors with Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and top lawmakers, said he would like legislators to change the flag to eliminate a symbol that some say is a reminder of slavery and segregation.

”Do what is right here and not what is popular at the moment,” he said. ”Civil war artifacts really belong in Civil War museums.”

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Mfume said the nation’s largest civil rights group plans to discuss the issue at its national convention that starts Saturday in New Orleans and he couldn’t predict what will happen. The NAACP has boycotted South Carolina for flying a freestanding Confederate battle flag on its statehouse grounds.

Regardless of whether any group recommends a boycott, he said, Mississippi could feel economic repercussions if organizations cancel conventions or businesses decide not to invest in the state.

”Things will in all likelihood probably get worse before they get better,” Mfume said.

Mississippians voted by a 64-to-36-percent margin in April to keep a flag that includes the Confederate symbol that some see as a reminder of slavery and segregation and others see as a part of history and heritage.

Musgrove, who had been an outspoken advocate of adopting a new flag, said Thursday that he urged Mfume not to call for a boycott.

He said the election gave Mississippi a chance for open dialogue about race relations and other issues.

”Ever how you feel about the flag, I believe a cooperative coming together of the people is a much better way to deal issue,” Musgrove said.

The flag vote has prompted the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters and the predominantly black Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity to cancel plans for conventions in Jackson in 2002.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Robert Clark, D-Ebenezer, said Thursday he wants the NAACP to bring people together so black Mississippians can speak with a unified voice.

”The flag issue is not dead,” he said. ”It’s not going to die.”