Va. Governor Ralph Northam Needs To Come Explain This Blackface and KKK Yearbook Photo ASAP [Updated]

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) speaks while flanked by Virginia State Senator and candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives Jennifer Wexton (D) during a rally at the Wexton campaign headquarters on October 30, 2018 in Sterling, Virginia.
Photo: Mark Wilson (Getty Images)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam got some ‘splaining to do after a Virginia newspaper obtained a yearbook photo of the then medical student and two men, one in blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, on the same page as Northam.

The photo comes from the Eastern Virginia Medical School’s 1984 yearbook, the same year Northam graduated and was obtained by The Virginian-Pilot, Friday.


From the Pilot:

On the half-page set aside for Northam, there is a headshot of him in a jacket and tie, a photo of him in a cowboy hat and boots and a third of him sitting casually on the ground, leaning against a convertible.

The fourth photo on the half-page has two people, one wearing white Ku Klux Klan robes and a hood, the other with his face painted black. The person with the black face is also wearing a white hat, black jacket, white shirt with a bow tie and plaid pants. Both are holding canned drinks.

It’s unclear who the people in costume are.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.

Under the photo of the men in blackface and the Klan hood are listed Northam’s alma mater, Virginia Military Institute, and his interest: “Pediatrics.” His quote is listed as “There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.”


So, yeah, Northam’s got to come out and explain why his mug is adjacent to racist iconography. The Pilot notes that Big League Politics, a conservative news outlet, has already come out with the headline: “YEARBOOK: Ralph Northam In Blackface & KKK Photo”.


And the Virginia GOP caucus has tweeted Northam asking him to explain the photo.

As of 5:10 p.m. EST Northam hasn’t tweeted anything about the photo but here’s to hoping whatever explanation he uses doesn’t start with, “It was the 80s and it was a different time back then...”



Unless the photos were taken in 1884, I have no idea what he’s talking about. I’m pretty sure blackface was off-limits during the Reagan administration even though Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet.


You can see the photo here but I warn you that includes sepia-toned blackface images and an idiot in a full KKK outfit.

Updated Friday, Feb. 1, 2018, 6:35 p.m. ET: Well, it looks like Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam reads The Root because shortly after this story was published the Virginia Democrat released a statement apologizing for his participation in said photo. And, below is all you need to know about said apology.


Nah, son. We need to know what it is that you are apologizing for. He appears to admit that he was in one of the costumes, but which one? Did the Virginia governor dress in blackface? Did he wear a KKK outfit? Did he think it was funny then? Why would he ever think that was ever funny? When does he plan on resigning? Wait, he’s not resigning? Why the hell not?


Nah, playboy, you’ve got to get back here and answer these questions. What the hell does saying you are “ready to do the important work” even mean? Is Northam going to get into the Back to the Future time machine and warn his 1984 self that this is going to tarnish his imagine in the crazy year of 2019? Are you going to tell your 1984 self about self-lacing shoes and electric cars while your at it?

A better apology would have been to come out and say, 1984 was a different time and I was racist-adjacent. I didn’t actually mean to knowingly hurt a black person but I did get kicks out of dressing in blackface (or was it a KKK get up?) and was dumb enough to post those images as my yearbook photo. Does anyone have a charger for a flux capacitor?


Also, everyone associated with this yearbook photo needs to be fired. The entire yearbook staff, crew, and record label. This is why yearbook staff diversity matters because it would have been the work of that lone black yearbook staffer to look at the photo and state simply, “Sorry, Chief. This ain’t it.”

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About the author

Stephen A. Crockett Jr.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.