Alabama Governor Won't Resign Over Blackface Controversy

GOP Gov. Kay Ivey said, "I'm not that person" anymore, referring to her performance in a minstrel show during college.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey told reporters Tuesday that she will not resign after audio from the late 1960s surfaced of her then-fiancé describing her performing a skit in blackface while attending college.

“Heavens no, I’m not going to resign,” the Republican governor said. “It’s something that happened 52 years ago and I’m not that person.”

Ivey was forced to issue an apology last week when the audio from a 1967 radio interview came out in which her then-fiancé, Ben LaRavia, playfully recalled her blackface performance at Auburn University. In the interview, LaRavia said Ivey wore “blue coveralls” and “black paint all over her face.”

LaRavia also said Ivey’s role in the Baptist Student Union minstrel show didn’t require much verbal talent, adding that “it did require a lot of physical acting such as crawling around on the floor looking for cigar butts.” Ivey can also be heard in the clip, acknowledging her role in the skit and laughing as she continues telling stories.

Photos suggest blackface skits were a regular occurrence when Gov. Kay Ivey was attending Auburn University in the 1960s.
Photos suggest blackface skits were a regular occurrence when Gov. Kay Ivey was attending Auburn University in the 1960s.
Marvin Gentry / Reuters

Allegations of Ivey’s connection to minstrel shows arose in February when The Auburn Plainsman revealed a photo of Ivey’s sorority sisters wearing blackface for a rush event at a time when she was a senior and served as vice president of the college’s student government. At first, Ivey and her spokespeople tried to distance the governor from the picture, saying only that she didn’t appear in it and didn’t remember the incident in question.

But the governor’s office changed course when university officials discovered the audio clip while working to preserve old university records, according to AP.

Ivey’s office shared the clip along with her apology last Thursday. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the governor said she didn’t remember the skit mentioned in the radio interview, but acknowledged that she “shouldn’t have done that.”

The announcement that she won’t resign comes after some state lawmakers and the Alabama NAACP called on her to do so.

Over the past year, public officials in other states have been caught in similar controversies involving their past use of blackface.

Earlier this year, Virginia’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, and the state’s Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, each apologized for having worn blackface in the past. Neither man left office. But in January, Florida’s Republican secretary of state, Michael Ertel, resigned after photos surfaced of him wearing blackface as part of a Hurricane Katrina victim costume for a Halloween party.