Leah Dozier Walker, a state employee who is the director of the Virginia Department of Education's Equity and Community Engagement Office, wrote to Pam Northam's office Monday, saying that during a tour of pages of the state Senate, the first lady had spoken in the mansion. cottage kitchen – where the slaves were working – and gave black pages, including cotton threads of Walker's eighth daughter, Walker's daughter said that she had not taken the cotton.
"When visiting the Mansion Cottage and two of his pages were invited to hold cotton that the First Lady had recovered in a bowl placed on a nearby table," Walker wrote in the letter. Ms. Northam then asked these three pages (the only Afro-American pages of the program) if they could imagine what it should have been to harvest cotton all day. "
Walker added that the incident with Pam Northam had indicated to him that the Northams did not understand the implications of their behavior, that she said she was deaf and deaf.
"The governor and Mrs. Northam have asked the people of the Commonwealth to forgive their past acts devoid of any race," she wrote, adding: "But the acts of Mrs. Northam, just last week, do not bear me not to believe that this governor's office took seriously the wrong and wrongs they caused to African Americans in Virginia or that they deserve our forgiveness. "
Walker's daughter also sent a letter to the first lady of the state confirming Walker's story that Pam Northam had handed her, as well as at least one other piece of African American cotton, and their would have asked to imagine being enslaved.
"The comments and the way you behaved at that time were unacceptable, especially given the recent events with the governor," Walker's daughter wrote to the First Lady. "Between the time we entered the mansion and those of the country house, I did not receive a welcoming atmosphere.It was very stressful to know that I had to go somewhere, and I did not feel comfortable. I had no choice if I had to go in. Be respectful and have my best behavior (sic) even when people in power position with who I was around were not doing the same thing. "
Pam Northam said in a statement that she regretted causing anxiety to anyone, noting that the cottage provided a vital backdrop to the Governor's guided tours and that she had made the same visit for all visitors.
"I am engaged in an effort to reflect thoughtfully and honestly on this important story since my arrival in Richmond," said Pam Northam in a statement. "In recent months, I have organized the same educational tour for visitors to the Executive Mansion and used a variety of artifacts and agricultural crops to illustrate a period of time. painful in the history of Virginia.I regret not having angry someone. "
She added, "I'm always committed to chronicling the important history of historical cooking and will continue to engage historians and experts on the best way to do it in the future."
The governor's office contested the fact that only African-American children were given cotton, saying the cotton had been distributed to all members of the group while Pam Northam was discussing its rough texture. According to the governor's office, the group was asked to touch and examine various historical elements.
"Nobody was chosen," said Ofirah Yheskel, director of communications for Ralph Northam, in a statement. "The First Lady's administration made contact with the mother of the page and offered to apologize in person, but had no response.The offer is still valid."
The incident is the latest controversy for the governor, who refused to resign despite calls from local and national democrats.
VUU student protesters, known as Richmond 34, were arrested in 1960 after participating in a non-violent sit-in at the lunch counter of Thalhimers Department Store in Richmond. Their case was eventually referred to the Supreme Court, where the students were found not guilty. The decision was a major victory for the civil rights movement in America and played a key role in the desegregation of Richmond.
Janet DiGiacomo from CNN contributed to this report.