Sen. Robert Ford Holds Up Confederate Flag at State Senate

Apr 7, 2011

Columbia, SC (AP, WLTX) — A black South Carolina state senator says African-Americans should take part in celebrating events surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Democratic Sen. Robert Ford of Charleston stepped to the Senate podium on Thursday with a Confederate flag in hand.

He said South Carolinians are going to see a lot of those flags over the next four years. He says African-Americans can celebrate that the war brought freedom from slavery.

"For the next four years, you’re gonna see a lot of it," Ford said, holding up the flag. "Instead of dividing yourself, talking about why the war was fought, and I don’t like this, and I don’t like that, understand this: if you’re African-American, before the war you were a slave, and after the war you were free."

The war started in the Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861. Activities are planned next week around that milestone anniversary. An earlier event in the city commemorated the state’s secession from the union and drew criticism from civil rights groups.

"In 2012 you can do anything that you wanna do," said Ford from the senate floor.  He says African-Americans have a lot to be proud of.

Ford says he wants people to embrace their heritage and honor ancestors who died.

"If it wasn’t for the civil war we still could be enslaved," Ford said shortly after his comments in the senate chamber.   He said blacks were freed after the Civil War, which means they benefited from it being fought.  "Now I don’t know how you’re gonna argue with that."

Some African-American lawmakers said they don’t agree that blacks should take up Confederate flags and celebrate the Civil War, but still support the senator and call him friend.

"That’s those folks rights to celebrate that’s their prerogative, for me to celebrate is a whole new different posture because it has a different connotation to me," said Rep. Terry Alexander, a Democrat from Florence County.

"It’s difficult to come to terms and say we celebrate something just because of a changing of the times, we still have constant reminders of the history," said Democratic Sen. Gerald Malloy of Darlington.  He said Ford’s heart was in the right place with the comments.

Some lawmakers said the thought the image of Ford waving a confederate flag overpowered the message he wanted to send, but for Ford, who says he’s spent years fighting for civil rights, the message is one of progression.

"I understand why blacks are emotional about it, but I know we gotta move forward, and the only way we’re going to move forward is will education," Ford told WLTX. "The facts are the facts, before the war, slave, after the war, free. That means I got a reason to celebrate, that’s simple common sense."

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