The South Carolina House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly early Thursday to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds, just weeks after the fatal shootings of nine black church members reignited the flag debate.
The final vote of 94-20 after some 13 hours of debate is a stunning turn for the state that was the first to leave the Union and the site of the first battle of the Civil War. The Confederate flag was raised at its Statehouse to protest the civil rights movement more than 50 years ago.
“South Carolina can remove the stain from our lives,” said 64-year-old Rep. Joe Neal, a black Democrat first elected in 1992. “I never thought in my lifetime I would see this.”
The effort to remove the flag from the grounds gained new momentum following last month’s massacre of nine black people at the historic Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. Alleged shooter Dylann Roof, 21, featured the Confederate flag prominently in photos on a white supremacist website.
“We, out of tragedy, have created some degree of triumph,” said Rep. Todd Rutherford.
The state House passed the Senate version of the bill, approved Tuesday and written to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the Capitol. The bill will now go to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. She supports the measure.
Haley praised the vote as a “a new day” in South Carolina. In a Facebook post, Haley called it “a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and one state.”
Read more: NBC News