George Washington U. Finds Blackface Photos in Old Yearbooks

The Associated Press
Josh Edelson/AP

George Washington University is facing criticism over a series of blackface photos that were found in old yearbooks from the 1960s.

According to a report from the George Washington University student newspaper, the university is currently embroiled in an internal discussion about the school’s troublesome past. Someone at the university found blackface photos in the 1964, 1965, and 1968 editions of the school yearbook.

George Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc emphatically condemned the old yearbooks. “It’s important for us to acknowledge our history even when we don’t like what we see,” LeBlanc said. “Racism has no place at GW.”

Two of the yearbooks show students wearing Ku Klux Klan hoods. The blackface photos in the 1964 yearbook were featured on a page highlighting the “May Day Minstrel” show. Minstrel shows, which played on offensive stereotypes of blacks, were performed throughout the 19th century. The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s played a significant role in ending these shows, which at that point were primarily being performed in high schools and colleges.

The George Washington University yearbook staff published a statement condemning the images from their publication, even though the student staff members were decades away from birth when the images were taken.

The GW Cherry Tree Yearbook was made aware of the racist photos published in the 1964, 1965, and 1968 yearbooks, this afternoon. As an organization, we denounce these images and do not tolerate any form of racism within the culture of both our organization and in our published materials.

It is extremely upsetting to see that our publication once printed such disturbing images. These photos run directly counter to our values and are condemned by our organization. As an organization, we are committed to publishing a yearbook that captures the diverse nature of our student body and is welcoming to all students. We hold our staff to incredibly high journalistic standards to reflect our values of respect, communication, community, and diversity.

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