8th-grader chastises Virginia first lady for handing out cotton during tour

8th-grader chastises Virginia first lady for handing out cotton during tour
Virginia first lady Pamela Northam. (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - An eighth-grader upset with Virginia first lady Pamela Northam handing out cotton during a tour of the Executive Mansion wrote her a letter calling it “beyond inappropriate.”

WAVY reports the student was a Senate Page and was on a tour of the mansion, led by Pamela Northam.

In the letter, which can be seen here, the student describes being handed cotton by Northam and being asked, “Can you imagine being an enslaved person and having to pick this all day?”

The student says they will give the first lady the “benefit of the doubt” because she gave the cotton to other students on the tour, but said they did not feel welcome while on the tour.

Gov. Ralph Northam has resisted calls for his resignation after a racist photo appeared on his college yearbook page.

“It was very testing to know I had to go somewhere, and I had no choice as to if I went, I had to be respectful and be on my best behavior, even when the people in positions of power I was around were not doing the same.”

In a statement, Pamela Northam said the tour was to highlight the mansion’s history, which is part of her goal to tell the stories of the slaves who once worked in the Executive Mansion.

“As First Lady, I have worked over the course of the last year to begin telling the full story of the Executive Mansion, which has mainly centered on Virginia's governors. The Historic Kitchen should be a feature of Executive Mansion tours, and 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.

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. I regret that I have upset anyone.

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.”

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