RICHMOND - A Virginia legislator whose comments about a proposed state apology for slavery provoked a firestorm proposed a resolution Monday to have Virginia celebrate the end of slavery.
Del. Frank D. Hargrove, R-Glen Allen, said he had received about 4,000 calls and e-mails after saying last week that Virginia’s black residents should “get over” slavery and discussing whether Jews might “apologize for killing Christ.”
“The most significant communication I got,” Hargrove told the House of Delegates on Monday, was from a black minister in Belzoni, Miss., who suggested that he sponsor a resolution to celebrate the end of slavery. Hargrove asked for, and got, unanimous consent to introduce his resolution to have Virginia celebrate “Juneteenth” - the end of slavery on June 19, 1865 - even though the deadline to file bills was last Friday.
Meanwhile, the Richmond Times-Dispatch is reporting today that Hargrove, who turns 80 on Friday, had a great-grandfather who owned a slave.
The newspaper cited records at the Virginia State Library showing the ownership of a slave and reported that Hargrove said that fact does not change his mind about his controversial comments or his initial opposition to Del. A. Donald McEachin’s resolution seeking a state apology for slavery.
Hargrove said Monday that he would abstain from voting on McEachin’s apology resolution.
In brief remarks on the House floor seeking permission to introduce the Juneteenth resolution, the Hanover County Republican said, “I think it’s very worthy because it’s positive that we here in Virginia … celebrate the end of slavery. Slavery is over with. It was a horrible institution. There’s nobody living today that approved of it, that thought it was worthwhile.”
McEachin, D-Henrico County, and other lawmakers who support a state apology for slavery welcomed Hargrove’s resolution but stressed their belief that it should not replace an apology.
“It’s a resolution that I certainly intend to support,” McEachin said. “Virginia had nothing to do with the end of slavery.”
Del. Dwight C. Jones, D-Richmond and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said the apology resolution is “not asking people here to apologize for anything that they have done but just to acknowledge that it was an inhumane travesty of an institution here in America.”
“Certainly we want to celebrate the end of slavery,” Jones said, but not “out of sequence.”
“We have to acknowledge that slavery existed,” the Richmond Baptist minister said.
The Rev. Ronald V. Myers, the black Baptist minister who suggested the Juneteenth resolution to Hargrove, told The Daily Progress on Monday that such a resolution “offers the most constructive way to deal with the issue of slavery.”
Myers, 50, said both resolutions could help Virginia move forward “as long as the apology for slavery is based on a spirit that promotes reconciliation and healing.”
“America needs healing from the legacy of slavery,” said Myers, founder and chairman of the National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council. “We all have the common bond of freedom. Let’s come together and celebrate freedom.”
Myers said of Hargrove’s remark that “black citizens should get over” slavery last Tuesday in The Daily Progress was “typical of feelings of Americans who don’t understand slavery and its impact.”
From his home in Belzoni, Miss., which he called “the catfish capital of the world,” Myers suggested the formation of commissions to look at the impacts of slavery and to promote national reconciliation and healing.