A new report suggests that another Democratic governor of a Southern state once appeared in a yearbook that featured blackface imagery. In this one, however, there’s no accusation that the politician himself wore the offensive makeup or had anything to do with the pictures at all.
The Daily Mail reported late Wednesday that “blackface lynching pictures” appeared in the yearbook of the University of North Carolina in 1979, the same year that Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper graduated from that university.
However, the newspaper is not reporting that Cooper himself appeared in any such pictures, or that he ever wore blackface or Klan-related clothing. It reports that members of the Chi Phi fraternity at the university are the ones photographed wearing Ku Klux Klan outfits. Cooper was part of a different, though similarly named fraternity, Chi Psi, which was racially integrated.
“There is no suggestion that Cooper is in any of those photos but they feature in his 1979 yearbook,” the Daily Mail said in the story.
Cooper graduated from UNC in Chapel Hill, where he was president of the Young Democrats, and later graduated from law school there as well. He was elected to his first term as governor in 2016.
The Daily Mail story arrived nearly a week into the brouhaha over another Southern Democratic governor, Ralph Northam of Virginia. A medical school yearbook surfaced last week that showed one man in blackface and another in a Klan uniform on Northam’s personal page in the yearbook. Northam at first admitted it was him in the photos but then backtracked, and has refused to resign. The lieutenant governor and attorney general of Virginia, in the meantime, have faced their own scandals, leaving politics in that state in turmoil.
Cooper was among the Democratic politicians who called on Northam to step down in the wake of the scandal.
When contacted, the university issued a statement condemning the photographs. Cooper did not comment to the newspaper.
The aftermath of the Northam controversy has shown that dressing in blackface, and including it for posterity in college and medical school yearbooks, was far from a rare occasion in the southern United States, even as late as the 1970s or even the 1980s.
However, in Roy Cooper’s case, there’s no indication that he had anything to do with the offending photos, aside from having attended a very large university at the same time as the people who took them and having belonged to fraternity with a similar name to theirs.