On Thursday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s office released audio from the late 1960s alleging the governor wore blackface while a student at Auburn University.
The audio was uncovered by Auburn’s student media, who happened upon a radio clip from their archives from 1967. In it, Ivey and her then-fiancé, Ben LaRavia are interviewed as college seniors while Ivey is serving as the school’s Student Government Association’s vice president.
During the interview, LaRavia was asked to share his favorite moments from a Baptist Student Union skit night in which they participated, which is when LaRavia revealed the “black paint” incident.
Exchange as follows:
LARAVIA: Well, this does bring back a lot of fond memories. Especially whenever I see some of the pictures that were taken. I understand that should each of us ever reach a position and we could not remember back to our college days, that all we need to do is come back to the Auburn BSU and look at some of those pictures that they took that night, and I understand that we would be quite humbled at this.
IVEY: That’s true
LARAVIA: As I look at my fiancé across the room, I can see her that night. She had on a pair of blue coveralls and she had put some black paint all over her face, and she was — we were — acting out this skit called, “Cigar Butts.” I can not go into a lengthy explanation but to say the least, I think that 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 around on the floor, looking for cigar butts and things like this — which certainly got a big reaction out of the audience.
Ivey and LaRavia eventually married and moved to California. However, the marriage ended, and Ivey returned to Alabama.
In a video statement on Thursday, Ivey said she regretted her “participation in something.”
Ivey also released a written statement addressing the incident, which she claimed not to recall:
I have now been made aware of a taped interview that my then-fiance, Ben LaRavia, and I gave to the Auburn student radio station back when I was SGA Vice President.
Even after listening to the tape, I sincerely do not recall either the skit, which evidently occurred at a Baptist Student Union party, or the interview itself, both which occurred 52-years ago. Even though Ben is the one on tape remembering the skit – and I still don’t recall ever dressing up in overalls or in blackface – I will not deny what is the obvious.
As such, I fully acknowledge – with genuine remorse – my participation in a skit like that back when I was a senior in college.
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.
I offer my heartfelt apologies for the pain and embarrassment this causes, and I will do all I can – going forward – to help show the nation that the Alabama of today is a far cry from the Alabama of the 1960s. We have come a long way, for sure, but we still have a long way to go.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor