Ralph Northam’s advisers have suggested some reading material as he continues to refuse to step down as governor of Virginia. As the governor preps for his upcoming “listening tour” to get a statewide conversation about race relations going, those close to the governor say he should consider reading Roots.
BuzzFeed News reported the governor has also been advised to watch parts of Birth of a Nation and to read “The Case For Reparations,” a Ta-Nehisi Coates essay in The Atlantic.
Northam became a household name on the national level after a photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook page depicted two people — one in blackface and the other in KKK robe and hood.
After the governor said he regretted being one of the people in the photo, he later stated he was not one of the two individuals in the now-infamous photo.
When Northam campaigned for governor in 2016, he took a hard stance alongside then-governor Terry McAuliffe to remove all Confederate statues in the state.
“If there are statues, if there are monuments out there that provoke this type of hatred and bigotry, they need to be in museums,” Northam said in the Washington Post.
But once taking the governor’s seat, Northam backed off, saying statue removals should be left up to the local communities, according to BuzzFeed. Now that Northam faces calls for resignation and heavy scrutiny over his yearbook photo, he has vowed to sign off any legislation that calls for the removal of Confederate statues.
As part of Northam’s shift in refocusing his agenda on race relations in the Commonwealth, the governor is looking to increase funding to the state’s historically black colleges and universities.
During a CBS Morning interview with Gayle King, Northam said Virginia was a hub for such “indentured servants” from Africa, only to have King point out the “servants” were actually slaves.
As Northam takes his “listening tour” across Virginia, his staff insisted the governor not only listen to varying points of view, but also interject his own learning curve of rising from “white privilege” to sewing the state’s potential rift in racial relations.
Roots, written by Alex Haley, focuses on a slave captured in 18th century West Africa and taken by a slave transport ship to America, where slave Kunta Kinte was sold to a local plantation owner. The story follows Kunta’s journey of acclimating to America’s aristocracy — and the other black slaves — and his ability to learn English. Roots follows the path of seven generations of Kunta Kinte’s lineage.
Birth of a Nation, co-produced by D.W. Griffith in 1915, was a mash-up film that brought together several parts of American history into a three-hour film, but it’s also become notorious for refueling fires of the Ku Klux Klan, which eventually led to a rebirth of the white supremacy group. Birth of a Nation, the first film ever viewed in the White House during the Woodrow Wilson administration, became a national institution and in 1992 was called “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress.