Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey apologizes after 1960’s radio clip surfaces alleging she wore blackface
Allegations are being made that Governor Kay Ivey wore blackface while a student at Auburn University in the mid-1960’s.
This comes after Auburn’s student media discovered a radio clip from their archives in which Ivey was interviewed along with her then-fiancé, Ben LaRavia, when they were both seniors in college and she was Auburn’s SGA vice president.
In the interview, LaRavia was asked to share his favorite moments from a Baptist Student Union skit night they had recently participated in.
“Well, this does bring back a lot of fond memories,” LaRavia said. “Especially whenever I see some of the pictures that were taken. I understand that should each of us ever reach a position and we could not remember back to our college days, that all we need to do is come back to the Auburn BSU and look at some of those pictures that they took that night, and I understand that we would be quite humbled at this.”
“That’s true,” Ivey added, laughing.
“As I look at my fiancé across the room, I can see her that night,” LaRavia continued. “She had on a pair of blue coveralls and she had put some black paint all over her face, and she was — we were — acting out this skit called, ‘Cigar Butts.’ I can not go into a lengthy explanation but to say the least, I think that 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 around on the floor, looking for cigar butts and things like this — which certainly got a big reaction out of the audience.”
The Auburn radio host then jokingly asked Ivey if she would “like to defend” herself “from this low position” LaRavia had placed her in.
Ivey, chuckling, responded, “Well, that was just my role for the evening.”
She then discussed another memory of the skit, not directly addressing whether she was in blackface or not.
Ivey and LaRavia married the year of their graduation, 1967, upon which they moved to California. After a few years, their marriage ended and Ivey returned to Alabama to enter the world of banking — and, soon, politics. LaRavia has since passed away.
In a video statement on Thursday, Ivey said she regrets her “participation in something from 52-years ago that [she finds] deeply regrettable.”
The governor’s office told Yellowhammer News that Ivey does not remember the skit in question or ever wearing blackface.
“She does not recall the incident or anything like it, and because she loves everyone in this state, she felt it was important that she take complete ownership of her participation in what she describes as very regrettable,” Ivey’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, told Yellowhammer News.
Ivey also released a separate written statement, as follows:
I have now been made aware of a taped interview that my then-fiance, Ben LaRavia, and I gave to the Auburn student radio station back when I was SGA Vice President.
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. 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.
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.
Transcript of Ivey’s video remarks as follows:
My fellow Alabamians.
I offer my heartfelt apologies for my participation in something from 52-years ago that I find deeply regrettable. 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.
More Alabamians are working today than at any other point in our state’s history. The hardworking men and women of our state are helping to attract a vast array of business and industry, creating a booming economy. We are supporting life-altering research. Truly, Alabamians are changing the world.
While we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go, specifically in the area of racial tolerance and mutual respect. I assure each of you that I will continue exhausting every effort to meet the unmet needs of this state. Alabamians will continue to be at the forefront of defining our promising future.
I am proud to serve each and every one of you, and I love this state we all call home.
May God continue to bless each of you and the great State of Alabama.
The governor’s office confirmed to Yellowhammer News that former Congressman Jo Bonner, Ivey’s chief of staff, was informed of the existence of the radio clip on Tuesday evening. The audio of the radio clip was played to Ivey for the first time on Wednesday morning. She then notified state legislative leadership Thursday morning, including the respective minority leaders of both chambers, State Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and State Rep. Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville).
“This morning, the governor reached out to bipartisan leadership of the Legislature, as well as the lieutenant governor to express her remorse,” Maiola told Yellowhammer News.
It was previously reported by The Auburn Plainsman that an Alpha Gamma Delta, Ivey’s sorority, page in Auburn’s 1967 yearbook depicted five girls wearing blackface. Ivey has forcefully denied being in that photo. That yearbook picture does not match LaRavia’s description of Ivey from the radio clip.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn