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article imageVirginia Gov Apologizes For Slavery Omission from Proclamation

By Sadiq Green     Apr 8, 2010 in Politics
Richmond - Under pressure from critics, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia described his not mentioning slavery in his proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month in Virginia, a “major omission”.
The Republican governor’s revisions came after a day of scalding denunciations as the story became fodder for cable news shows, political blogs and in social media. McDonnell issued the proclamation on Good Friday at the behest of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, descendants of rebel soldiers. On Tuesday, McDonnell said in a telephone news conference that he wasn’t focused on slavery in drafting the decree but on Civil War history. As part of his apology on Wednesday, McDonnell inserted a paragraph condemning slavery and blaming it as the cause of the Civil War into the original proclamation.
“The abomination of slavery divided our nation, deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights, and led to the Civil War. Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation, the failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed,” McDonnell’s statement said.
Slavery played such a major role in the Civil War era that its omission gave a distorted image. The lack of any mention of human bondage and his hasty and clumsy reply, left critics and even former supporters outraged. Sheila C. Johnson, longtime Democratic Party donor and the co-founder of the Black Entertainment Network (BET), who shocked Virginia State politics by endorsing McDonnell’s candidacy a year ago, blasted him in a statement. “The complete omission of slavery from an official government document, which purports to be a call for Virginians to ‘understand’ and ’study’ their history, is both academically flawed and personally offensive.”
Virginia State Senate Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Mary Margaret Whipple of Arlington appeared on MSNBC and chided McDonnell for seemingly ignoring a profound wrong in U.S. history stating, “I think Governor McDonnell’s proclamation is very troubling to me and many others because it only presents one side of the story, one part of our history,”
McDonnell’s predecessor and current Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said that to dedicate April to honoring the Confederacy “without condemning, or even acknowledging, the pernicious stain of slavery or its role in the war disregards history, is insensitive to the extraordinary efforts of Americans to eliminate slavery and bind the nation’s wounds.”
McDonnell’s apology mollified one of his harshest critics from a day earlier, L. Douglas Wilder, a grandson of slaves whose election in Virginia in 1989 made him the nation’s first of only two elected Black American governors. Wilder, a Democrat who gave McDonnell’s candidacy a boost last fall by refusing to endorse his own party’s nominee for governor, stated, “I think he did the best he could do with what he had to work with. For him to come out at first and do what he did was a mistake. He admits that was a mistake.”
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