More shocking photos from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook have emerged showing multiple men dressed up in blackface – as the college says an investigation will be launched into all of its past yearbooks.
Northam is facing calls to resign as governor after a photo from his profile page in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook surfaced on Friday that featured someone in blackface and someone in KKK robes.
While he initially apologized for appearing in the photograph, the Democrat reversed course on Saturday and said that after further consideration he had determined he wasn’t in the picture after all.
The photo in question featured a man in blackface and a second person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. Northam has admitted that he once used shoe polish to put on blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume for a 1984 dance contest in Texaswhen he was in the Army.
‘While I did not appear in this photo, I am not surprised by its appearance in the EVMS yearbook,’ Northam said in a statement.
‘In the place and time where I grew up, many actions that we rightfully recognize as abhorrent today were commonplace.’
More photos from the 1984 yearbook have emerged on social media showing multiple men dressed in blackface.
There is a photo of three men in blackface on the page opposite Northam’s profile, as well as another picture of a man wearing a wig and black paint on his face.
Another photo featuring blackface in the yearbook was accompanied with the caption: ‘Baby Love, who ever thought Diana Ross would make it to Medical School’.
Bryn Kerrigan Mahan said she spent hours in the school’s library going through the yearbooks and noted there were blackface photos from various years, as well as ‘cover to cover Confederate flags’.
‘Pure speculation, but seems to me VMI was using blackface as a form of hazing in the ’70s. #NorthamResign,’ she tweeted.
The president of the school, Dr. Richard V. Homan, announced on Saturday that he will direct an external investigation into past yearbooks.
The investigation will be carried out by a ‘panel of advocates for diversity and inclusion’.
It will include African Americans and other people of color.
The probe will determine the yearbook publishing process and the extent of administrative oversight.
It will also examine the campus culture at the Eastern Virginia Medical School.
Northam’s insistence that he is not in the initial racist photo did nothing to quell the clamor from his own party on Sunday for him to resign.
In his initial apology on Friday, Northam posted a video on Twitter, saying he could not ‘undo the harm my behavior caused then and today’.
On Saturday, the governor reversed course and said he wasn’t in the picture after all. Northam also said he had not seen the photo before Friday, since he had not bought the yearbook or been involved in its preparation 35 years ago.
‘It has taken time for me to make sure that it’s not me, but I am convinced, I am convinced that I am not in that picture,’ he told reporters at the Executive Mansion in Richmond, calling the picture offensive and horrific.
Northam, who is one year into his four-year term, again rejected demands that he step down.
While talking with reporters, Northam admitted he once used shoe polish to put on blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume but said he regrets that he didn’t understand ‘the harmful legacy of an action like that’.
Asked if he could still do Jackson’s famous moonwalk, Northam looked at the floor as if thinking about demonstrating it. His wife put a stop to it, telling him: ‘Inappropriate circumstances.’
His shifting explanations did little or nothing to sway prominent Democrats calling on him to resign, including from Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Tim Kaine and Elizabeth Warren.
Northam was pushed repeatedly by reporters to explain why he issued an apology if he wasn’t in the photograph.
He conceded that people might have difficulty believing his shifting statements.
‘My first intention… was to reach out and apologize,’ he said, adding that he recognized that people would be offended by the photo.
But after studying the picture and consulting with classmates, Northam said, ‘I am convinced that is not my picture.’
Walt Broadnax, one of two black students who graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School with Northam, said Saturday that he also didn’t buy the 1984 yearbook or see it until decades later.
Broadnax defended his former classmate and said Northam is not a racist, adding that the school would not have tolerated someone going to a party in blackface.
The yearbook images were first published Friday by the conservative news outlet Big League Politics.
Northam spent years courting the black community in the run-up to his 2017 race for governor run, building relationships that helped him win both the primary and the general election. He is a member of a predominantly black church.
Northam, a pediatric neurologist, has recently come under fire from Republicans who have accused him of backing infanticide after he said he supported a bill loosening restrictions on late-term abortions.
In a tweet late Saturday, President Donald Trump called Northam’s actions related to the photo and abortion debate ‘unforgiveable!’
Late last month, Florida’s secretary of state resigned after photos from a 2005 Halloween party showed him in blackface while dressed as a Hurricane Katrina victim.
SOURCE: Daily Mail and AP, by Emily Crane