i think it's interesting that so many people argue that the secession of the southern states and the ensuing civil war was about something other than slavery -- the expansion of slavery as the nation expanded west. the expansion of slavery was at the very core of the issues that led to the outbreak of the war.
the tariff issue was a dead letter after andrew jackson's time, and "states' rights" was merely another way of saying "states' rights to allow slavery." ALL the major political controversies leading up to the war -- the missouri compromise, the compromise of 1850, the dred scott case, the kansas-nebraska of 1854 -- all were about slavery, it's continued existence, it's spread into new territories, or the problem of fugitive slaves who escaped into free states.
the southern states never had control of the house of representatives, where representation is based on population. the south was desperate to maintain balance in the senate (by maintaining an equal or superior number of slave states to free states), to ensure that congress could not pass anti-slavery legislation, or repeal the fugitive slave laws (which allowed southerners to forcibly retrieve runaway slaves in the northern free states). the missouri compromise of 1820, and the compromise of 1850, were incredibly divisive issues of the day, when people were sure the nation was on the brink of war, and each time, the issues -- admission of new states into the union, and how the nation's terrotiorial expansion would effect slavery as an institution in the south -- was resolved in such a way as to ensure that the free states would not outnumber the slave states (i.e., as a practical matter, to retain equality in the senate).
in 1854, the kansas territory petitioned to join the union, and the issue flared up again; the territory was north of the boundry established by the missouri compromise (meaning the territory would be a free state forbidding slavery), but pro-slavery sympathizers would have none of that, and they were successful (with the help of stephen douglas) in getting a bill through congress that divided the territory into two, and allowed the people to decide whether to allow slavery under the principle of 'popular sovereignty'. it was assumed that kansas would be slave, nebraska free. but the k/n act infuriated many people in the north, and people on both sides were galvanized into action, rushing into kansas to "settle" there and vote in the special election. violence erupted, incredible, shocking, savage violence, and kansas became known as 'bleeding kansas'. (quite a few historians, in fact, say the civil war began in 1856, 5 years before the attack on fort sumter.) throughout the 1850s, when kansans voted not once, not twice, but three times on whether to be a slave or free state (pro-slavery forces winning each time, but each election invalidated because of widespread fraud and violence), when john brown was scouring the countryside on a holy crusade and raiding the federal arsenal in harper's ferry to procure weapons, the supreme court decided the incredibly controversial dred scott case, and the lincoln-douglas senatorial debates in illinois (debates which centered around the kansas/nebraska issue) captured national attention. the brutal violence in bleeding kansas was a point of no return; the issue of slavery and the territorial expansion of the nation remained, but it was obvious that political compromise was impossible. with the house of representatives long gone, and the senate, as the nation expanded west, soon to be lost to the free states, the only hope for the south to maintain slavery as an institution was a president such as douglas (or bell or breckinridge) who would presumably veto any anti-slavery legislation. the election of lincoln as president in 1860 was the last straw; many southerners saw him as opposed to the expansion of slavery, if not a downright abolitionist at heart. and the war came. not a war about tarrifs, or states' rights, or any other such nonsense, but about slavery.
and the thing about the emancipation proclamation gets me, too. so many times i've heard people say "it didn't free a single slave, and it didn't do anything about slavery in the border states that remained in the union." yeah, yeah. the thing was, lincoln couldn't just issue a proclamation and abolish slavery, it had been legally recognized in the US for almost 100 years, and he was sure it would be held unconstitutional for the government to deprive owners of what had always been recognized as private property (like it or not), without paying 'just compensation' as required by the constitution, a fiscal and moral nightmare. so he came up with a pretty good solution: tie emancipation to 'military necessity' and use his powers as commander-in-chief to free slaves that presumably were aiding the southern war effort (meaning, of course, only those slaves in areas still in open rebellion on jan. 1, 1863). the proclamation was designed primarily to be an incentive to slaves to run from plantations growing the food to feed the southern armies, and to further bind the efforts of northern abolitionists to the war. as federal troops advanced, slaves in the areas covered by the proclamation would be freed, and after the war, the last vestiges could be dealt with (as they were, in the 13th amendment). the proclanation was certainly more than just "propaganda." (yes, he also saw it would be effective in helping to keep great britain out of the war, but that was never a very serious threat in the first place.)
anyway, sorry to ramble on so long. my mom and dad were both great history buffs (you can probably tell, lol), so i've been fascinated with this stuff since i was a little girl. on the mississippi flag issue, i agree that there are far more important things out there to worry about, but i tend to agree with those who wanted the new design; i don't think it's too much to ask for a state flag that everyone in the state, black and white, can be proud of.
heritage and history is important, yes, and i'm certainly not in favor of erasing anyone's heritage. jesse, i think it's cool that you're into civil war reenacting, and temptress, i think it's great that you're proud of mississippi (which is a pretty great state). keep all the battlefield and courthouse monuments, keep all those organizations like the sons of confederate veterans and all the civil war reenactors, all that stuff is great. but it's nonsense to deny that slavery was the single biggest cause of the civil war and was the very core of the confederate states of america, and (in my opinion, anyway) quite understandable that a lot of people -- whites and blacks, but especially blacks -- would be offended by having the confederate battle flag incorporated into the flag of their home state.
ok, i'll shut up now, lol.