He called it "an unacceptable omission," saying Americans can't understand the Civil War without understanding slavery.
"I don't think you can understand the Confederacy and the Civil War unless you understand slavery," said Obama, the nation's first
black president. First lady Michelle Obama is descended from a South Carolina slave.
Interviewed by ABC News on Thursday in Prague, Obama said the controversy was "a reminder that when we talk about issues like
slavery that are so fraught with pain and emotion, that, you know, we'd better do so thinking through how this is going to affect a
lot of people."
McDonnell proclaimed April Confederate History Month in Virginia, hoping to attract tourists next year to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the war. But he changed the proclamation a day later to include slave history after coming under intense criticism.
Critics called the proclamation offensive. And the NAACP is one of several organizations furious with McDonnell for the omission. He has since apologized. The new passage added to the proclamation reads in part, "it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice."
Virginia's previous two governors, Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, refused to issue the proclamation. So this is the first Confederate History Month in Virginia since 2001.