Northam yearbook photo

Names: Unclear

Why you know them: Even as their identities remain a mystery, two people photographed wearing racist costumes in the 1980s threw the state’s political world into a tailspin this year.

The photograph appeared on Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page, but it was only brought into the public eye in February when shared by a conservative blog.

The image quickly took off online, where it would be etched into the minds of many Virginians: a man in blackface and plaid pants, another person in a Ku Klux Klan robe, both smiling and holding drinks.

Northam’s botched response — he first admitted to being in the photo, but later about-faced during an unseemly news conference — was immediately followed by calls for his resignation by people across the political spectrum.

The photo, and the ensuing scandals that plagued the state’s other executive leaders, attracted national media attention to the state, nearly pushed the state’s top Democrats out of office, and rubbed salt on the unhealed wound that is Virginia’s racist past.

What’s new?: Not much. Though Northam promised to deliver clarity on the origins of the photo, investigations by the administration and EVMS proved inconclusive. Rumors on the topic abound, but so far, the context within which the photo was taken, how it wound up on Northam’s page and who is pictured remain unknown.

In a December interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Northam declined to delve into the topic. Asked whether he knows who either of the people pictured are, Northam said: “There were two very thorough investigations. Those were made public, and I have nothing else to say.”

— Mel Leonor

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article. You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.

Your sports-only digital subscription does not include access to this section.

SALE!
Only $3 for 3 Months
Unlimited Digital Access

  • Unlimited access to every article, video and piece of online content
  • Exclusive, locally-focused reporting
  • News delivered straight to your inbox via e-newsletters
  • Includes digital delivery of daily e-edition via email
SALE!
Only $3 for 3 Months
Unlimited Digital Access

  • Unlimited access to every article, video and piece of online content
  • Exclusive, locally-focused reporting
  • News delivered straight to your inbox via e-newsletters
  • Includes digital delivery of daily e-edition via email