09/16/2010 10:10 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Glenn McConnell, South Carolina Senate President, Appears In Controversial Antebellum Picture

South Carolina Senate President Glenn McConnell is coming under fire after pictures from a recent event surfaced, showing him dressed in Confederate attire posing with two black men wearing "Antebellum" costumes.

South Carolina blog FitsNews dug up the photos, which were publicly posted on Facebook after the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women's "A Southern Experience" function.

McConnell has since defended the pictures and the event, saying that they're a sign of how far the state has come, rather than, as some have suggested, a symbol of lasting problems of racial insensitivity from the state that still flies the Confederate flag in its statehouse.

Charleston's Post and Courier reports:

"What the ladies had put together was a smorgasbord of Southern culture," McConnell said. "It was reflected in the dress, the historical accuracy of the performances and even down to the food. It was a wonderful, entertaining and educational night for those visitors. It showed the approach we have in this state of a shared history.

" ... If somebody is trying to be politically correct and use a tunnel vision on it and hook in the slavery issue, they're on a slippery slope toward narrow-mindedness and they should extend the charity of understanding. Receive it in the spirit that it is presented."

McConnell is a noted Civil War enthusiast, and has been photographed before donning Confederate garb in his 20 year history of partaking in reenactments.

According to AP, the black re-enactors were part of the Gullah-Geechee cultural group, known for demonstrating the mid-1800s.

Sharron Murphy, one of the members of the group, explained to the Post and Courier that they were compensated for their time at the event, and that their appearance was about educating, not offending.

"My husband and I are preservationists," Murray told the Post and Courier. "We teach people about the Gullah culture."

Across the country, a Washington state Tea Party group is also drawing charges of racial insensitivity after it rolled out a float at a recent festival that depicted a man dressed as Barack Obama whipping a young teenage boy.

Video of that event has since gone viral and can be seen below: