Mississippi's flag became an open question last May, when the state Supreme Court found the banner that had flown since 1894 had no official standing. When state laws were updated in 1906, sections dealing with the flag weren't carried forward.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove created a commission that held a series of contentious public hearings last fall. Acting on the commission's recommendation, lawmakers set a special election so voters could choose between the old design and the proposed new one.

The Mississippi flag vote was woven into a larger debate over how the South grapples with its troubled racial history as it focuses on the future.

In neighboring Alabama, jury selection continued Tuesday in the trial of a white man accused in one of the civil rights era's most notorious crimes, the Sept. 15, 1963 bombing of Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. The bombing killed four girls in the black congregation.

In recent years, prosecutors in Mississippi and other states have dusted off files of old civil rights cases in a bid to seek justice. In 1994, jurors convicted Byron de la Beckwith for assassinating NAACP leader Medgar Evers in Jackson in 1963.

Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore says he is "vigorously pursing" leads to piece together a case against those accused of killing civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County in 1964.

Other Southern states have also wrestled with symbols of the Confederacy.

South Carolina lawmakers, under economic pressure from the NAACP, last year removed a freestanding Confederate battle flag from atop the statehouse dome and moved it to a monument near the building. Georgia legislators in January shrunk the Confederate battle symbol that dominated that state's flag since 1956.

Many Alabama cities and counties have stopped flying the state's flag -- a red X over a white background, adopted in 1895 -- because some think it bears too strong a resemblance to the Confederate banner. Mobile County, Ala., last year removed the Confederate battle flag from its official seal, sparking protests from Southern heritage groups.

Last year, plaques commemorating that state's Confederate history were removed from the Texas Supreme Court building.