An independent investigation of Virginia Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam’s controversial yearbook photo containing both a man in blackface and Ku Klux Klan attire could not determine the identity of the individuals on Northam’s page.
Northam became inflamed in controversy this year when a medical school yearbook photo emerged showing two individuals in blackface and Ku Klux Klan (KKK) attire on his page. Northam took responsibility for the controversial photo but said in February he believed he does not appear in the picture and had no plans to resign.
Big League Politics uncovered a page from Northam’s yearbook at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) that had nicknames under his name, which included “Coonman,” a racial slur.
Many prominent Democrats, such as former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), as well as mainstream publications, such as the Washington Post, called on Northam to resign. After Northam faced those calls to resign, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax faced calls to resign for accusations of sexual misconduct. Virginia Democrat Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface, as well. An independent investigation commissioned by the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) could not identify the individuals in the photo.
McGuireWoods, the law firm that investigated the incident, found no one “with first-hand knowledge of an actual mistake on any page, including any personal page, within the 1984 yearbook” and no evidence that the photo was placed in error. McGuireWoods did find ten photographs depicting individuals in blackface based on the law firm’s review of all EVMS yearbooks.
“We thank EVMS for its cooperation and responsiveness during the investigation,” Richard Cullen, who led the investigation, said in a press release. “EVMS ensured McGuireWoods had unfettered access to EVMS documents and members of the EVMS community. At no time was our inquiry restricted by EVMS, and the findings and conclusions contained in the report are our own.”
Richard V. Homan, president and dean of EVMS, acknowledged in a press release that the photos were a “failure” of administrative oversight on the part of EVMS.
“Their publication was hurtful, particularly to the African-American community and to our campus community,” Dr. Homan said. “It should never have happened.”