RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Former President Barack Obama bemoaned the rise of racial politics.
Speaking at political rallies in New Jersey and Virginia, Obama said past prejudices the country thought it had "put to bed" have reemerged.
The first black president offered himself as proof that the country has moved forward, telling the crowd in Richmond, Virginia - the former Capitol of the Confederacy - that he is a distant relative to Confederate President Jefferson Davis on his mother's side.
"Think about that," Obama said. "I'll bet he's spinning in his grave."
Thursday was Obama's return to the political spotlight for the first time since leaving the White House in January. Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states electing new governors this year.
He rallied supporters of Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate and expressing frustration about the current state of political discourse.
Obama told Virginia voters Thursday evening to back Democrat Ralph Northam in next month's election, saying Northam wants to take the state forward and not backward.
He also decried the current state of politics and said "our democracy's at stake" in the Virginia election.