- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2019

Virginia first lady Pam Northam has expressed regret that she “upset anyone” after a black student and her mother accused her of racially insensitive remarks.

Mrs. Northman said she was only trying to provide an illustration of “a painful period of Virginia’s history” when she gave black students cotton and asked them to ponder what being a slave was like during a tour of the Executive Mansion this week.

The incident was detailed in letters written by an eighth grade student and her mother, Leah Dozier Walker, who is director of the state’s Office of Equity and Community Engagement for the Virginia’s Department of Education.

The student said she served as a state Senate page. While talking about the crops that were picked on the property, Mrs. Northam handed cotton to her and another student, both black, and said, “Can you imagine being an enslaved person, and having to pick this all day?”

“I can not for the life of me understand why the First Lady would single out the African American pages for this — or — why she would ask them such an insensitive question,” Ms. Walker, the student’s mother, said in her letter.



In a statement released to media outlets, Ms. Northam said the cotton was meant to be a learning experience about how rough the crop was that grew on the property.

“I have provided the same educational tour to Executive Mansion visitors over the last few months and used a variety of artifacts and agricultural crops with the intention of illustrating a painful period of Virginia history,” the first lady said. “I believe it does a disservice to Virginians to omit the stories of the enslaved people who lived and worked there — that’s why I have been engaged in an effort to thoughtfully and honestly share this important story since I arrived in Richmond.”

Another parent whose child participated in the tour and Gov. Ralph Northam’s office have said that the first lady did not specifically choose black students, stating that cotton was handed out to several students on the tour.

The racially charged incident follows Mr. Northam’s efforts to engage in racial reconciliation after a photo of a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan uniform were found on his page in his medical yearbook.

The Democratic governor at first apologized for appearing in the photograph, then later said he was not in picture but did admit he had appeared in blackface as part of a dance contest in the 1980s.

Shortly after Mr. Northam’s revelation, Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he too had appeared in blackface in the 1980s to imitate a rap group at a college contest.

Both Mr. Northam and Mr. Herring have resisted calls for their resignation.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has resisted calls for his resignation over the allegations from tw javascript:void(0); o women that he had sexually assaulted them years ago.

Vanessa Tyson has accused Mr. Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him when during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Meredith Watson has accused him of a similar attack in 2000 when they were students at Duke University.

Mr. Fairfax has denied the charges and said the sex was consensual.

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