Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was fact-checked by “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King after referring to slaves as “indentured servants.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam: “We are now at the 400-year anniversary — just 90 miles from here in 1619. The first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort, what we call now Fort Monroe, and while—”@GayleKing: “Also known as slavery” pic.twitter.com/AiX96MU1rJ
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 10, 2019
In his first televised interview since last week’s blackface scandal which ended in multiple calls for the Virginia governor’s resignation, Northam seemed to be attempting to give viewers a lesson on the history of slavery in the state. The full interview is set to air Monday.
“We are now at the 400-year anniversary, just 90 miles from here in 1619. The first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort, what we call now Fort Monroe, and while …” he said before being interrupted by King.
“Also known as slavery,” she said.
“Yes,” said Northam.
Thus far refusing to resign and even parlaying the blackface scandal into a reason why he can be an even better governor, Northam told The Washington Post that he has a “lot more to learn.”
“I have a lot more to learn,” he said. “The more I know, the more I can do. I want to heal that pain, and I want to make sure that all Virginians have equal opportunity … and I think I’m the person that can do that for Virginia.”
Twitter, however, wasn’t impressed by Northam’s progress so far.
My God, it just gets worse & worse.😑
Asked about this week in VA, Northam responds by referring to kidnapped, enslaved, & trafficked Africans as “indentured servants.”🤦🏽♂️
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@MuslimIQ) February 10, 2019
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam called Black Americans who were forcefully enslaved “indentured servants” and Gayle King had to correct him. The fact that this man was not immediately removed from office after photos of him wearing Blackface and klan attire surfaced, is beyond me pic.twitter.com/rILtVbuLJE
— Tariq Nasheed 🇺🇸 (@tariqnasheed) February 10, 2019
What? The audacity to call slaves indentured servants is as racist and historically inaccurate as could be. Northam needs to go and leave the shoe polish and sheets behind. https://t.co/ojL9eXUeNR
— Bradley Blakeman (@BlakemanB) February 10, 2019
On the other hand, some pointed out that Northam could actually have been factually correct:
Folks, learn your damn history. Northam is correct. First black Africans brought to Virginia in 1619 were indentured servants. @GayleKing is wrong. There were no laws for slavery in VA til 1661. The evolution from IS to slavery is essential to understand depth of evil of slavery.
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) February 10, 2019
Northam is in enough trouble but this isn’t part of it. The early black arrivals in the British North American colonies, and likely those at Jamestown, were often given the status of indentured servants. The slave system took time to evolve in the 17th century. @GayleKing https://t.co/zfGNGkQl5x
— jelani cobb (@jelani9) February 10, 2019
CNN’s “quick history lesson” on the matter allowed for some nuance while recognizing that, even if some were freed, it was “still slavery.”
Enslaved Africans first arrived in Virginia in 1619. Before slavery was fully institutionalized in the British colonies, some enslaved Africans were freed after working for a certain period of time or after a debt had been paid, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was still slavery — Africans were brought to these shores forcibly and they weren’t paid. And it wasn’t long before the colonies became economically dependent on enslaved labor and by extension, the slave trade.