Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey Apologizes for Wearing Blackface 52 Years Ago

August 30, 2019 Updated: August 30, 2019

Republican Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she was sorry for wearing blackface—painting her face with black paint—decades ago while she was in college.

An interview with Ivey and Ben LaRavia, her fiancé at the time, was posted online this week and quickly circulated. It included LaRavia discussing a skit the pair apparently performed in and said Ivey was wearing blue coveralls with “some black paint all over her face.”

Ivey said in a statement that she was made aware of the interview, which took place in the 1960s when she and LaRavia were in college.

“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,” she wrote. “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,” she continued.

“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.”

Ivey also released a video statement.

The audio appeared to be posted as part of an effort by the Auburn University library to digitize years of audio tapes featuring Auburn students, an Ivey press secretary told WSFA.

Some officials have resigned after it was been revealed they wore blackface years ago but Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who admitted he was one of the two people in a college picture featuring one person in a Ku Klux Klan outfit and another wearing blackface, did not do so earlier this year, nor did Democratic Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

Ralph Northam
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam prepares to address a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 31, 2019. Northam did not resign after admitting he was one of two people in a yearbook photograph showing one person in a KKK costume and another wearing blackface. His nickname in the book was “Coon Man,” a racial slur. (Steve Helber/AP Photo)

Still, some Alabama lawmakers said that Ivey should resign.

“If she did that she is insensitive. She needs to step down. She needs to be governor of all people,” state Rep. John Rogers, a Democrat, told AL.com. “It is not acceptable any time or place. Do us a favor and step down.”

“I don’t care if it was 52 years ago or yesterday. She is the governor of the state of Alabama, which is still considered one of the most racist states in the U.S.,” added state Rep. Juandalynn Givan, a Democrat. “This is who she was then. It is who she is now. I have nothing for her. I don’t accept her apology.”

Others voiced support for Ivey.

“Obviously, somebody found something stupid she probably did when she was in college and I’ll just say that I am so grateful that we didn’t have Facebook in the 60s and 70s,” state Rep. Mike Ball, a Republican, told the outlet. “People do stupid things when they are young. I know that I’m not the same person that I was when I was that age.”

“The Alabama Republican Party appreciates and supports Governor Kay Ivey taking ownership of and responsibility for this 50 plus year old incident,” Alabama GOP Chairman Terry Lathan said in a statement. “While it occurred when she was a college student, Governor Ivey has stood up, admitted her mistake and offered a sincere apology though she has no recollection of the event.”

“Her extraordinary record of public service shows her ability to work with all people regardless of race, religion or party affiliation. We stand with Governor Ivey uniting our state for a greater future.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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