Controversy: Va. First Lady in Hot Seat After Racial Complaint From State Employee

Gov. Ralph and First Lady Pam Northam. Image via the @FirstLadyVA Twitter feed.
Gov. Ralph and First Lady Pam Northam. Image via the @FirstLadyVA Twitter feed.

It’s still February, so that means there’s still time for one more racial scandal to hit Virginia Democrats.


This time around, it’s Virginia’s First Lady Pam Northam who is in the hot seat.

The Washington Post reports:

A Virginia state employee has complained that her eighth-grade daughter was upset during a tour of the historic governor’s residence when first lady Pam Northam handed raw cotton to her and another African American child and asked them to imagine being enslaved and having to pick the crop.

“The Governor and Mrs. Northam have asked the residents of the Commonwealth to forgive them for their racially insensitive past actions,” Leah Dozier Walker, who oversees the Office of Equity and Community Engagement at the state Education Department, wrote Feb. 25 to lawmakers and the office of Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

“But 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,” she wrote.

Also per the WaPo, Gov. Northam’s office and the parent of another child on the tour say cotton was handed to all the students that day.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch published Pam Northam’s full statement, which reads:

“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,” the first lady said.

“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.”


I would almost be willing to cut the Mrs. Northam some slack here, as I remember my grade-school days where we took field trips to historic places and were given “hands-on” experiences about what things were like in the old south. But the timing of this couldn’t be worse for the governor as he continues to try and navigate his way through the minefield that would be his racial healing tour (which, by the way, isn’t going so well).

In spite of the governor’s blackface admission, he’s still holding on to the support of a majority of Virginians … but just barely.

Flashback to the “moonwalk” question:

The fact that First Lady Northam stopped her husband from doing the moonwalk in the middle of what was a very embarrassing presser done just days after his blackface scandal broke may have helped contain the damage. But until the governor’s racial woes blow over (and eventually they will, as they usually do for Democrats), it’s probably best she stays away from the cotton visuals.

Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter.–



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