Monday, January 22, 2007

RICHMOND — A Virginia legislator who enraged black leaders by saying that black Virginians “should just get over” slavery yesterday proposed celebrating slavery’s demise.

Delegate Frank D. Hargrove Sr. said a Mississippi minister called and recommended a resolution supporting a “June- teenth” observance for Virginia.

Juneteenth is the June 19 observance of the day in 1865 when Union officers read the proclamation declaring slavery’s end in Galveston, Texas, considered the last outpost of the defeated Confederacy to hear the news.

Mr. Hargrove, a Hanover Republican who turns 80 Friday, said in a Jan. 16 interview that he opposed a legislative resolution offering an official apology for slavery because no one living today was involved in it. He rhetorically asked whether Jews should also be made to apologize for the Crucifixion of Christ and said of slavery, “our black citizens should get over it.”

Two days later, Virginia’s black leaders, threatening protests, demanded an official censure of Mr. Hargrove and an apology from the Republican Party.

Yesterday, Mr. Hargrove said on the House floor that the Rev. Ronald Myers, a black minister in Belzoni, Miss., had suggested a Juneteenth resolution.

“I think it’s very worthy because it’s positive that we here in Virginia — and it has nothing to do with the apology — that we celebrate the end of slavery. Slavery’s over with, it was a horrible institution, there’s nobody living today that approved of it, that thought it was worthwhile,” Mr. Hargrove said.

The Rev. J. Rayfield Vines Jr., one of the Virginia black leaders who denounced Mr. Hargrove’s remarks, said he has no problem with a Juneteenth resolution as long as there’s also a slavery apology.

“The problem I have with that is that there are people who have a problem understanding that an apology for slavery is in order,” Mr. Vines said, taking note of this year’s quadricentennial celebration of the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, Va.

“Dominant society wants us to remember 400 years of history in Virginia, but not remember slavery,” Mr. Vines said.

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