Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey apologized on Thursday for her role in a racially insensitive skit involving blackface that her sorority put on when she was a student at Auburn University in the 1960s.
Ivey said in a statement on Thursday that while she has no recollection of the skit, or of wearing blackface, she has “genuine remorse” over her participation.
Though her fiance at the time, Ben LaRavia, "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 obvious,” Ivey said. “As such, I fully acknowledge – with genuine remorse – my participation in a skit like that back when I was a senior in college.”
She continued: “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.”
The apology by Ivey, a Republican, comes after photos emerged earlier this year of an Alpha Gamma Delta pledge class at Auburn – she was president – wearing blackface. While none of the photos featured Ivey herself, audio from a radio interview conducted during the sorority event features LaRavia describing the future governor as wearing blue coveralls and having “had put some black paint all over her face,” according to local news media.
"We were acting out this skit called 'Cigar Butts,'" LaRavia said in the interview, which the governor's office released. "I could not go into a lengthy explanation, but to say the least, I think 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 on the floor looking for cigar butts and things like this."
Ivey’s apology comes more than six months after the first reports of her wearing blackface in her sorority’s skit surfaced in a report by The Auburn Plainsman, and her statement on Thursday was quickly condemned by Democratic state lawmakers, with some urging her to resign.
“I don’t care if it was 52 years ago or yesterday,” state Rep. Juandalynn Givan said. “She is the governor of the state of Alabama, which is still considered one of the most racist states in the U.S. This is who she was then. It is who she is now."
Givan added: “I don’t accept her apology. She should have stood before the people of Alabama herself. … She should resign. I don’t think she should have been elected, and I think she is a racist.”
Ivey’s apology also comes months after another governor from another Southern state was accused of having worn blackface.
Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam received calls earlier this year from both sides of the political divide to step down after a photo surfaced from his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook featuring a man in blackface and a second person cloaked in Ku Klux Klan garb.
Northam at first apologized for the photo, but then said he was not one of the men in the photo. Northam did concede he'd worn blackface around that time, though, saying he'd once used shoe polish to darken his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume for a 1984 dance contest in San Antonio, Texas.