Northam’s 1984 EVMS yearbook page shows racist imagery

The image shows Gov. Ralph Northam's page in his 1984 EVMS school yearbook. It's unclear who the people in the picture are, but the rest of the page is filled with pictures of Northam and lists his undergraduate alma mater and other information about him. (Courtesy of Republican Party of Virginia)
The image shows Gov. Ralph Northam’s page in his 1984 EVMS school yearbook. It’s unclear who the people in the picture are, but the rest of the page is filled with pictures of Northam and lists his undergraduate alma mater and other information about him.
(Courtesy of Republican Party of Virginia)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s page in his 1984 medical school yearbook contains a photo of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood next to different pictures of the governor.

The photo shows two people looking at the camera — one in blackface wearing a hat, bow tie and plaid pants; the other in white Klan robes. It’s unclear who the people in the picture are, but the rest of the half-page shows photos of Northam— in a jacket and tie, in a cowboy hat, and next to a car — beneath his name. The page lists his undergraduate alma mater and his interest as pediatrics.

The Democratic governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The yearbook images were first published by the conservative news outlet Big League Politics. An Associated Press reporter saw the yearbook page and confirmed its authenticity at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, which Northam attended.

Republican state Sen. Bryce Reeves said in a statement that Northam should resign if the reports of the photos are accurate.

“I hope that this picture is inaccurate and that the Governor brings clarity to this issue. This has no place in Virginia,” Reeves said.

Racism has no place in Virginia,” said Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Jack Wilson. “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”

For now, Northam’s close allies haven’t said anything publicly. Democratic Sen. Jennifer McClellan, a well-known African-American lawmaker from Richmond, just shook her head when approached by a reporter seeking comment.

Northam, a folksy pediatric neurologist who is personal friends with many GOP lawmakers, 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.

Last week, Florida’s secretary of state resigned after photos from a 2005 Halloween party showed him in blackface while dressed as a Hurricane Katrina victim.

At 6:15 p.m., Northam released this statement:

“Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive.

“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.

“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.”

Associated Press writer Ben Finley contributed to this report.

Southside Daily contributed to this report.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.