William & Mary officials on Monday finally sent word Gov. Ralph Northam will not be attending Friday’s Charter Day.
The announcement came days after Democrats, Republicans, organizations and even a former vice president called for Northam’s resignation after a racist photo surfaced on a school yearbook page.
“We have conferred with the governor’s office, and he will not be part of Friday’s program,” said Katherine A. Rowe, the university’s president, in a letter to the college community on Monday. See the full letter here.
Rowe said Northam officiated her swearing-in ceremony in July of last year and was scheduled to speak at Charter Day later this week.
In February 2018, Northam served as keynote speaker of the university’s Charter Day. He received an honorary degree and acknowledged fellow honoree, Trudier Harris, the university’s first African-American tenured faculty member and African-American and Southern Literature and cultural theory scholar.
Northam also acknowledged the 50th anniversary of the college’s first residential African-American students in 1967.
“We shouldn’t forget that those milestones were not that long ago, discrimination, segregation and racism are not long past history,” Northam said. “There are things that happened to people who are alive and in this room today. Our work to overcome racism and discrimination is not complete.”
Northam also mentioned Charlottesville and said the following:
“We still have a lot of work to do to ensure we eradicate discrimination and build a Virginia in which everyone is welcome, everyone is treated equally no matter where they come from, which religion they practice, who they love or the color of their skin,” Northam said. “I promise I will work toward that as governor.”
It remains unclear whether the college told Northam to cancel or he declined to attend.
“We conferred with the governor’s office and mutually decided he will not be attending,” said Suzanne Clavet, director of news and media for the university.
The college declined to speak with WYDaily on the phone and resorted to answering questions via email. WYDaily asked William & Mary multiple times who would replace Northam at the college’s Charter Day ceremony, which remains unclear.
“We are discussing options for someone else to fill that role in the program. We are not going to comment on who we may ask to fill this role,” she said.
Clavet said William & Mary officials think Northam’s resignation is not for the college to decide but for the governor and Virginia residents.
The 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook images were first published Friday afternoon by the conservative news outlet Big League Politics. The photo shows two people looking at the camera — one in blackface wearing a hat, bow tie and plaid pants; the other in a full Ku Klux Klan robe.
Friday was also the first day of Black History month.
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