The national board of directors of prominent U.S. civil rights group the NAACP voted on Saturday to end its 15-year boycott of South Carolina prompted by the display of the Confederate battle flag on state capitol grounds.
"Emergency resolution passed by the NAACP National Board of Directors at #NAACP106, ending the 15 year South Carolina boycott," the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said on its Twitter feed.
The resolution was approved during the NAACP's annual convention in Philadelphia.
South Carolina removed the flag on Friday to chants of "USA, USA!," after three weeks of emotional debate over the banner, a symbol of slavery and racism to many, but of Southern heritage and pride to others.
Numerous elected officials, including Republican Governor Nikki Haley, called for the flag's removal after the June 17 killings of nine African-American churchgoers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston. Photos of the white man charged in the slayings showed him posing with the flag on a website that also carried a racist manifesto.
The Confederate flag was raised atop the South Carolina State House dome in 1961 as part of centennial commemorations of the American Civil War. Critics said its placement was a sign of opposition by politicians to the black civil rights movement at the time.
In 2000, the NAACP announced an economic boycott of South Carolina and protesters marched on the state capital.
The group maintained its boycott even after lawmakers agreed to move the flag to a monument to Confederate war dead on the capitol grounds. On Saturday, in its resolution to end the boycott, the NAACP said any move to prematurely end the boycott would have emboldened elements of society seeking to "perpetuate the hatred and history of oppression associated with the Confederate flag."
In a separate action earlier this week, National Collegiate Athletic Association president Mark Emmert said his organization was removing all barriers to South Carolina hosting championship-level college sports events now that the Confederate flag has been removed from the state capitol grounds.
The NCAA, the major organization of U.S. intercollegiate athletics, had prohibited pre-determined post-season competitions in South Carolina because of the flag. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles,; Editing by David Gregorio)