Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam apologized for appearing in a racist yearbook photo depicting blackface and Ku Klux Klan attire.

VCU Capital News Service/Flickr (Public Domain)

Virginia governor apologizes for racist yearbook photo showing blackface, KKK attire

He said he is 'deeply sorry' amid calls for his resignation.


Eilish O'Sullivan


Published Feb 1, 2019   Updated Feb 1, 2019, 7:05 pm CST

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued an apology statement on Friday for appearing in a racist photograph in a 1984 medical school yearbook, according to the Washington Post.

The yearbook shows photos of Northam on the same page as a photo of two men, one painted in blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, the Virginian-Pilot reports. It appears the space in the yearbook was bought for and dedicated to the Democratic governor, as his name is written at the top, and pictures of him fill the half-page.

Northam acknowledged appearing in the photo “in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive,” but he did not confirm if he was the man in blackface or klan attire. His statement came amid calls for his resignation.

“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,” he said Friday. “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.”

There are three other photos on the spread that depict solo images of Northam. The page is from the Eastern Virginia Medical School 1984 yearbook, the same year Northam graduated, and is available to the public in the Eastern Virginia Medical School library. It is typical for those graduating to have yearbook pages bought for and dedicated to them.

Both men in the racist photo can be seen holding beer cans. The text under the photo reads:

Alma Mater: Virginia Military Institute
Interest: Pediatrics
Quote: There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world, so I think I’ll have another beer.

“I can confirm that the picture in question does appear in a 1984 student-produced publication. The EVMS library is open to the public and does provide access to its materials,” a spokesperson for Northam Medical School said in a statement to a WUSA9 reporter.

Other state lawmakers defended Northam, the Post reports.

“His whole life has been about exactly the opposite and that’s what you need to examine, not something that occurred 30 years ago,” said Virginia Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw. “While it’s in very poor taste, I would think there is problem no one in the General Assembly who would like their college conduct examined.”

Virginia Republican Sen. Richard Stuart added: “He’s my friend and I will always stand up for him.”

Northam’s press office did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.


H/T the Virginian Pilot

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*First Published: Feb 1, 2019, 6:57 pm CST