Correction: A part of a quote from Sen. Ford was mistakenly omitted. It has since been added.

A black South Carolina state senator today urged African Americans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Sen. Robert Ford (D), holding a Confederate flag in one hand, spoke on the senate floor. Addressing African Americans in general, he said they should understand, “before the war you was a slave, after the war you was free and in 2012, you can do anything you want to.”

He said there would be a lot of Confederate flags on Tuesday, the anniversary of the first battle of the war at Ft. Sumter. He said the sight shouldn’t be divisive and he encouraged his colleagues to get involved in the anniversary commemorations to promote understanding and to prevent misinformation.

“Be willing to talk to your white colleagues. Be willing to talk to your black colleagues. Be willing to go to the schools and talk to the students, say, listen, we’ve got to move forward from what you think happened between 1861 and 1865.”

AP reporter Seanna Adcox has more on Ford’s address in this story.