‘Can you imagine being an enslaved person, and having to pick this all day?’…
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s wife reportedly passed out pieces of cotton to young legislative pages — including African Americans — to describe how slaves used to pick cotton during a meeting last week.
Northam and his wife, Pamela Northam, met with several teenagers on Feb. 21 for an educational tour of their home.
According to one of the teenagers present at the event, Pamela Northam led them into a cottage next to the governor’s mansion’s garden that used to serve as a kitchen, home, and workspace for slaves that worked at the mansion.
“When in the cottage house you were speaking about cotton, and how the slaves had to pick it,” the teenager recalled in a letter of complaint to the Virginia First Lady. “There are only three Black pages in the page class of 2019. When you went to hand out the cotton you handed it straight to another African American page, then you proceeded to hand it to me, I did not take it. The other page took the cotton, but it made her very uncomfortable. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, because you gave it to some other pages. But you followed this up by asking: ‘Can you imagine being an enslaved person, and having to pick this all day?'”
In his letter to Pamela Northam, the page said her behavior was “beyond inappropriate,” especially considering recent information that came to light about Governor Northam’s racist past, according to CBS News.
Earlier this month, Ralph Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook with a photo of a person in blackface and one in Ku Klux Klan robes was circulated online.
Northam apologized, then reversed course and said he wasn’t in the photo.
He then admitted that he had worn blackface for a Michael Jackson dance contest, which led many Democrats to call for his resignation.
He has refused to step down.
Pamela Northam said in a statement that the “educational tour” she gave last week was no different than the dozens of others she’s given over the past few months.
It’s important to remember “a painful period of Virginia history” and to tell “the full story” of the governor’s mansion, she 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,” she said.
The New York Daily News, distributed by the Tribune Content Agency, contributed to this report.