Glenn F. McConnell

South Carolina GOP lawmaker defends picture with ‘slaves’

McClatchy

A photo of South Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, outfitted in a Union Navy captain’s uniform and posing with two African-Americans dressed in “slave garb,” is making the rounds on the Internet.

McConnell, easily the most powerful state senator, said the photo depicts friends greeting each other after a re-enactment performance to showcase several genres of S.C. history to conferees from across the country. The picture was taken during a Republican women’s conference in Charleston last week.

But the image — with the slave dress, the period military uniform and McConnell, who’s widely known in the Palmetto state for his avid participation in Civil War re-enactments and for preserving the Confederate Hunley submarine — is viewed by some as offensive.

McConnell, a Charleston Republican, said the uniform he’s wearing in the picture is the same uniform he wore in a movie about the Hunley, in which he had a nonspeaking role. He also points out he is not wearing a Confederate uniform, but a Union uniform which the hosts asked him to wear.

McConnell said there is nothing racist about the picture and people should “receive (the re-enactment and subsequent photo) in the spirit in which it was presented that evening,” meaning a learning experience.

But others say the image evokes painful memories of historic oppression in this state, as South Carolina once had the nation’s second-largest slave port in Charleston, where the photo was snapped.