Pam Northam, wife of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), stirred up an outcry when, in a ham-handed attempt to convey the hardships slaves endured, she handed out raw cotton to students—including African Americans—and asked them to imagine picking it all day in the fields.
According to a Wednesday Washington Post report, the eighth-grade daughter of Leah Dozier Walker, an official at the state Education Department, was in attendance and expressed her distress to her mother.
Walker wrote a letter conveying her anger, especially in light of Northam’s recent scandal: a picture of a man in blackface next to one in a Ku Klux Klan robe was discovered in his medical school yearbook earlier this month. Northam later admitted that though he wasn’t in the picture, he had donned blackface before.
“…The actions of Mrs. Northam, just last week, do not lead me to believe that this Governor’s office has taken seriously the harm and hurt they have caused African Americans in Virginia or that they are deserving of our forgiveness,” Walker wrote.
Northam’s office told the Post that while giving a tour of the mansion, the first lady simply handed the cotton to whomever was nearby, not intending to single out the African Americans in the group.
“I regret that I have upset anyone,“ Pam Northam said in a statement. “I am still committed to chronicling the important history of the Historic Kitchen, and will continue to engage historians and experts on the best way to do so in the future.”