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Virginia first lady apologizes after handing cotton to black children

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Image: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife Pam leave the funeral of fa
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife Pam leave the funeral of fallen Virginia State Trooper Lucas B. Dowell after the church service for the funeral at the Chilhowie Christian Church in Chilhowie, Va., Feb. 9, 2019. -
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Steve Helber AP file
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Virginia first lady Pam Northam apologized Wednesday after she handed out cotton to black children during a recent tour of the governor's mansion, the latest racial controversy involving the top levels of the state' government.

"I regret that I have upset anyone," Northam said. "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."

Her apology came after a Virginia state employee complained to lawmakers and Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's office about the first lady having handed out cotton to her eighth-grade daughter and another black child during a recent tour, asking them to imagine picking the crop as enslaved Africans, The Washington Post reported.

The first lady's actions "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," Leah Dozier Walker, who oversees the Office of Equity and Community Engagement at the state Education Department, wrote Feb. 25

The two African American students were not singled out by the first lady, according to Northam's office and another parent of a student present, who said she was handing out cotton to a group of students.

The incident comes after, earlier this month, it was revealed that her husband's 1984 medical school yearbook page shows a photo of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe. He initially apologized for the photo, but a day later said he wasn't in it. However, he admitted to once wearing blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume for a dance competition the same year the yearbook was published.

He has since said he would not resign, instead looking to "heal" the state.