Alabama’s Governor Apologizes for Wearing Blackface in Her Youth—Because of Course She Did

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey discussing a bill that would virtually outlaw abortion in her state on May 15, 2019, a bill she eventually signed into law. Now, she is apologizing after audio has surfaced recounting her having worn blackface while a college student in the 1960s.
Photo: Blake Paterson (Associated Press)

Months after saying she didn’t know nothing about her sorority’s college yearbook page showing women in blackface, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday issued an apology about having worn blackface herself in a separate incident as an undergraduate at Auburn University.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the governor, perhaps more nationally known this year for having signed into law a near-total abortion ban, said she did not recall wearing blackface while she was a student at Auburn during the 1960s.

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However, she said she would “not deny what is obvious,” and apologized for behavior that was revealed in an audio account of a skit she performed.

“I fully acknowledgewith genuine remorsemy participation in a skit like that back when I was a senior in college,” Ivey, now 74, said in a statement, Politico reports. “While some may attempt to excuse this as acceptable behavior for a college student during the mid-1960s, that is not who I am today, and it is not what my administration represents all these years later.”

Ivey issued the apology after a 1967 interview with Ivey and her then-fiance, Ben LaRavia, came to light.

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As the Advertiser explains:

Audio surfaced of a 1967 interview given by Ivey and her then-fiance, Ben LaRavia, in which LaRavia recalled a party at Auburn’s Baptist Student Union. Ivey participated in at least one sketch at the party, where LaRavia said she wore blackface.

“She had on a blue coveralls, she had put some black paint all over her face, and we were acting out this skit called Cigar Butts,” LaRavia said in the interview, which the governor’s office released with Ivey’s statement. “I could not go into a lengthy explanation, but to say the least, I think this skit, it did not require a lot of talent, as far as verbal talent. But it did require a lot of physical acting, such as crawling on the floor looking for cigar butts and things like this.”

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LaRavia says Ivey got a “big reaction” from the audience.

Ivey’s admission comes months after she denied having any knowledge of another blackface incident, according to the Advertiser: that of an Auburn University yearbook page in which a page dedicated to her sorority showed five women in blackface.

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Regarding having worn blackface herself, Ivey called members of Alabama’s Legislature to express regret. State Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, who is African American, told the Advertiser he was willing to “move forward.”

“It is painful to us in the African-American community,” he said. “This governorI’ve worked with her as lieutenant governor and now governor. That person portrayed is not the person I’ve experienced working with her.”

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Ivey is the latest in a number of lawmakers admitting to having worn blackface in the past, as Politico notes:

Earlier in the year, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, a Democrat, acknowledged that he wore blackface after a photo of two men surfaced in Northam’s medical school yearbook. One of the men wore blackface and the other was in Ku Klux Klan robes.

The scandal caused national Democrats and Republicans to denounce Northam, 59, who apologized but did not resign. He is still in office.

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