Frank Hargrove
Steve Helber  /  AP
Del. Frank Hargrove, R-Hanover, speaks Monday on the floor of the House during the session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va.
updated 1/22/2007 7:56:34 PM ET 2007-01-23T00:56:34

A state legislator who sparked outrage by saying black Virginians should “get over” slavery proposed a resolution Monday celebrating slavery’s demise.

Del. Frank D. Hargrove proposed Virginia officially celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. It refers to the date the last slaves in the United States were freed, June 19, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.

“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,” Hargrove said. “Slavery’s over with, it was a horrible institution, there’s nobody living today that approved of it, that thought it was worthwhile.”

Several black religious ministers last week demanded a censure of Hargrove, a Republican who turns 80 on Friday, after he said in a newspaper interview that he opposed a resolution apologizing for slavery because no one living today was involved in it.

Hargrove, who is white, 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.”

On Monday, Hargrove said in remarks on the House floor that the Rev. Ronald Myers, a black minister in Belzoni, Miss., had suggested the Juneteenth resolution as an alternative to a slavery apology.

Myers is chairman of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation and said in a telephone interview that several legislatures have adopted Juneteenth resolutions.

The Rev. J. Rayfield Vines Jr., one of the black Virginia leaders who denounced Hargrove’s remarks last week, 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,” Vines said, noting this year’s 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,” Vines said.

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