A Virginia Military Institute yearbook overseen by future state Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment in 1968 features a host of racist photos and slurs, including blackface.
The revelation about one of Virginia's most powerful Republicans comes as the state’s Democratic governor and attorney general are facing calls to resign over their own admissions they wore blackface as young men.
Norment, R-James City County, was managing editor of The Bomb publication that year. He went to VMI in Lexington after graduating from James Blair High School in Williamsburg and has been a state senator since 1992.
On one page of the yearbook, a student poses in blackface, surrounded by others in costumes at a party. Another page features a photo of two men in blackface holding a football.
The N-word is used at least once. A student listed as being from Bangkok, Thailand, is referred to as a “Chink” and “Jap.”
A blurb under one man’s picture says: “He was known as the 'Barracks Jew’ having his fingers in the finances of the entire Corps.”
The Bomb has been published continuously since 1897. The first black students were allowed to enroll at the institute in the fall of 1968.
When a reporter asked Norment to talk about the yearbook Thursday, the majority leader said, “The only thing I’m talking about today is the budget.”
Hours later, he said in a statement issued by a spokesman: “The use of blackface is abhorrent in our society and I emphatically condemn it. As one of seven working on a 359-page yearbook, I cannot endorse or associate myself with every photo, entry, or word on each page. However, I am not in any of the photos referenced on pages 82 or 122, nor did I take any of the photos in question.
“As my comment on Page 236 notes, I supported the integration of VMI. And in 1997, I led the effort to have my alma mater include women for the first time.”
Why black Virginians don't want Northram to resign:
According to a recent Washington Post-Schar School poll, Virginians are evenly divided over whether Northam should resign, with 47% saying he should step down and 47% preferring that he remain in office. Yet, black residents show the most support for Northam staying: only 37% think resignation is appropriate while 58% believe he should not leave office. And among those Virginians who lean Democrat, the black-white divide on whether he should step down is 57-49.
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Ultimately, most black Virginians made the practical calculation that’s characteristic of black Americans writ large: the chance to make tangible, incremental gains with an imperfect politician is preferable to exacting harsh political and social sanctions to prove a point about the unacceptability of past racist behavior, particularly if black interests could be further harmed as a result.