Virginia governor asked to resign after blackface yearbook photo surfaces

Image from the Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook from 1984

Governor Ralph Northam apologizes for Blackface / KKK photo in his 1984 Medical School yearbook as #NorthamResign trends

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has issued a public apology and tweet that says he is “deeply sorry” for a photo that appeared in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook in which the future governor appears in a photo with two men, one dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit and the other in blackface. It is not clear, nor has it been revealed which person is Northam.

Democratic leaders and members of organizations such as the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has asked formally for the governor to resign.

As reported in the Associated Press: ”The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the state House Democratic Caucus and the state Senate Democratic Caucus all called on Northam to resign, along with several key progressive groups that have been some of the governor’s closest political allies.”

The Virginian-Pilot, which had obtained a physical copy of the medical school’s yearbook to confirm Northam’s involvement, also reported that former Virginia Governor Terry McCauliffe had asked for the resignation of Northam.

At the time of writing this article sentiments on Twitter, to include the hashtag #NorthamResign and #NorthamMustResign were trending hashtags.

Thus far, Northam has not resigned, but he has apologized. On Friday, he issued a Twitter video in which he said, “My fellow Virginians, earlier today I released a statement apologizing for behavior in my past that falls far short of the standard you set for me when you elected me to be your governor. I believe you deserve to hear directly from me.”

Lynette Allston Chief of the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia and member of the Virginia Indian Advisory Board told Indian Country Today, “He presented himself in one way, but another side of him has been revealed. He is probably a different person than he was in 1984, and we all have things in our past, but something he did years ago has now come to light.”

The Virginian-Pilot posted the Democratic governor’s official statement and confirmation that he is one of the individuals in a photo and was “in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive.” Northam has not confirmed which individual he is in the photo. His statement posted by the Pilot reads as follows:

“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,” Northam said. “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment. I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their governor.”

According to the Pilot, Eastern Virginia Medical School representative and spokesman Vincent Rhodes said the school would not be able to comment because the president of the school was traveling, the yearbook had not been produced since 1974, and that the yearbook was a “student-run activity.”

Rhodes told the Pilot, “We obviously don’t think that type of photo would be appropriate to publish in the yearbook.”\

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling

Email - vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

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