Criticism grows after Pam Northam accused of handing out cotton

First Lady under fire for giving out cotton

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) Another controversy coming out of the Virginia State Capitol, but this time it’s Virginia’s first lady, Pam Northam, under fire.

A page for the General Assembly is accusing her of being racially insensitive during a tour of the Executive Mansion.

“On the first day of the month, we are talking about Gov. (Ralph) Northam and blackface and Klan hoods, and the last day of the month we are talking about his wife handing out cotton to black kids,” political analyst Ravi Perry said.

In a letter, an African-American 2019 page for the General Assembly described a tour of the Executive Mansion where she said Northam handed out cotton and asked, “Can you imagine being an enslaved person and having to pick this all day?”

The eighth-grader called the action “beyond inappropriate.”

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Perry said.

Perry says this just digs a deeper hole for Virginia politics.

Earlier this month Gov. Northam, was accused of being in a racially offensive photograph. Northam denies he is in the picture but later admitted to posing in blackface in the ’80s while impersonating Michael Jackson.

“It shows how out of touch the governor and his wife are when it comes to issues involving African-Americans,” Perry said.

Pam Northam released a statement saying in part:

" 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. "

Leah Walker is the mom of the former page also released a statement in support of her daughter, it reads.

"As the parent of a 2019 Virginia General Assembly page that had an unfathomable experience on the First Lady’s mansion tour, my only interest is in protecting my child and ensuring that the pain she and others have endured does not linger and discourage. I am proud of my daughter’s courage, strength, and persistence. Unfortunately, I also remain extremely disappointed in official responses that are as tone deaf and insensitive as the initial bad act. "

Another African American page in the program said the group went over the history of the house, which was built on a plantation.

“We were split up into groups. Mrs. Northam and the African-American tour guide shared the history of the Governor’s Mansion,” the page said. “The tour included a slave cottage with several items, including cotton she showed us saying how hard life was for the slaves. In our group, she handed it to a white page first who was closest to her and we passed it around. I never felt targeted. I thought it was a teaching moment about what life was like back then."

The first lady also said in her statement she is still committed to chronicling the important history and will engage historians and experts on the best way to do so in the future.

Read the full statement from First Lady Pam Northam here.

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.