Alabama Governor Apologizes for Wearing Blackface in College Skit
|thenorthstar||Sep 1, 2019|
Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey has issued an apology for wearing blackface during a skit while she attended Auburn University in the 1960s.
A recording of a radio interview from 1967 surfaced where Ivey, and her then-fiancé Ben LaRavia, discussed her participation in a Baptist Student Union party skit that year where she wore blackface. LaRavia said the skit “did not require a lot of talent… but did require a lot of physical acting such as crawling around on the floor looking for cigar butts.” Her then-fiancé also suggested the skit “certainly got a big reaction out of the audience.”
"As I look at my fiancé across the room, I can see her that night," LaRavia said. "She had on a pair of blue coveralls and she had put some black paint all over her face and we were acting out this skit called ‘Cigar Butts.'"
In her statement obtained by NPR, Ivey said she does not recall performing in the skit, but after listening to the interview, said it must be true.
"Even after listening to the tape, I sincerely do not recall either the skit, which evidently occurred at a Baptist Student Union party, or the interview itself, both which occurred 52 years ago. Even though Ben is the one on tape remembering the skit — and I still don't recall ever dressing up in overalls or in blackface — I will not deny what is the obvious," Ivey said in her statement. "As such, I fully acknowledge — with genuine remorse — my participation in a skit like that back when I was a senior in college."
Ivey apologized for participating in the skit that she now finds “deeply regrettable,” but made no statement about stepping down.
“I offer my heartfelt apologies for my participation in something from 52 years ago that I find deeply regrettable. I will do all I can going forward to help show the nation that the Alabama of today is a far cry from the Alabama of the 1960s,” she said in a video statement obtained by AL.com.
“While we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go, specifically in the area of racial tolerance and mutual respect. I assure each of you that I will continue to exhaust every effort to meet the unmet needs of this state,” she continued.
Earlier this year, The Auburn Plainsman first reported about pictures of Ivey’s sorority members of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority appearing in blackface in her senior yearbook. Ivey denied that she participated in this, despite being mentioned for her role as vice president of the student government association on the same page.
“We talked to the governor this morning," Ivey's press secretary Daniel Sparkman told the publication at the time. "She knows nothing about the page in the first place, and she does not appear on that page."
Sparkman said during the Alabama governor’s senior year at the university, she was less involved in the sorority and was more involved in other organizations on campus.
"She remained a member, but she took no further roles in the sorority because her focus shifted during her freshman year to SGA activities," Sparkman previously told the publication. "Every year she was at Auburn, she was elected to an SGA position ending with vice president during her senior year.”
Alabama Representative Terri Sewell, the only Democratic member in the state’s House, wrote on Twitter on August 29 that Ivey’s actions “were reprehensible and are deeply offensive.”
“To truly move forward, we must engage in an open [and] honest dialogue about race and our state’s painful past to ensure no group of Alabamians feels marginalized. Alabama cannot escape its painful history without reconciliation [and] Gov. Ivey’s admission today only deepens open wounds,” Sewell stated.
Ivey is not the first governor to come under fire for wearing blackface in the past. In February, a photograph from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook surfaced that showed two men, one in a Ku Klux Klan robe and another in blackface, posing on the same page as the governor’s yearbook photos. The Virginian-Pilot first obtained the photo from Eastern Virginia Medical School, where Northam attended.
Northam released a statement apologizing and confirming that he was one of the men in the photo, but did not reveal which one.
"Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive," he said. "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."
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.