Mississippi formally began the process to remove the Confederate symbol from its state flag on Saturday.
The state House and Senate voted to suspend legislative deadlines and present a bill to change the flag amid intense criticism and weeks of pressure during protests over racial injustices.
Observers at the Mississippi Capitol roared in applause as the measures were taken, and debate on a bill will begin Sunday.
“Today, you, Mississippi, have an appointment with fate,” said Senator Briggs Hopson.
Meanwhile, Republican Representative Jason White in the House said: “The eyes of the state, the nation, and indeed the world are in this House.”
Protesters have flooded the streets of American cities for the past month to protest the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, and many in the south question the continued use of Confederate images, including the flag and rebel monuments.
Mississippi is the latest state to include the Confederate emblem, a red field crossed with a blue X dotted with 13 white stars, on its flag.
The flag has been controversial among residents for decades, but, after recent protests, Republican Governor Tate Reeves said Saturday that he would sign legislation to change the flag if the Republican-controlled Legislature passes a bill.
“The discussion about the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself, and it is time to end it,” Reeves said.
The governor had previously taken a less firm stance on the issue, saying only that he would not veto a bill if it were brought before him.
A bill would remove the current Mississippi flag from state law. Later, a commission would be in charge to design a new flag without the Confederate battle emblem, although it must have the phrase “In God We Trust”.
The new design would be put on the ballot on November 3 and would become the state’s official flag if a majority of voters approve.
If a majority votes against the new flag, the commission will return to the design table to design a new emblem under the same criteria.
“I know there are many good people who … believe that this flag is a symbol of our Southern pride and heritage,” said White, the House’s pro-tempore Republican speaker.
“But for most people across our nation and the world, they see that flag and think it means hatred and oppression.”
Democratic lawmakers celebrate a day that some thought they would never see.
“I never would have thought I’d see the flag drop in my life,” said Democratic Senator Barbara Blackmon.