Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced yesterday a new state commission to review educational standards for teaching black history in the state, as officials observed the arrival of enslaved Africans to what is now Virginia 400 years ago.

Northam, who noted "we are a state that for too long has told a false story of ourselves", spoke at the 2019 African Landing Commemorative Ceremony in Hampton. The event was part of a weekend of ceremonies unfolding in the backdrop of rising white nationalism and a scandal surrounding Northam.

"We know that racism and discrimination aren't locked in the past. They weren't solved with the Civil Rights Act. They didn't disappear. They merely evolved," Northam, a Democrat, said.

A marker at the spot of the first slaves' landing. Photo/ AP
A marker at the spot of the first slaves' landing. Photo/ AP

In February, Northam faced pressure to resign after a blackface picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook. He admitted to wearing blackface while portraying Michael Jackson at a dance party in the 1980s.

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The event was held on Chesapeake Bay, where ships traded men and women from what's now Angola for supplies from English colonists. The landing in August 1619 is considered a pivotal moment that presaged a system of race-based slavery.

- AP