Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey sorry for appearing in racist sketch in 1960s
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday issued an apology for appearing in a racist sketch during her time as an undergraduate at Auburn University in the 1960s.
Audio surfaced of a 1967 interview given by Ivey and her then-fiancee Ben LaRavia in which LaRavia recalled a party at Auburn’s Baptist Student Union. Ivey participated in at least one sketch at the party, where LaRavia said she wore blackface.
“She had on a blue coveralls, she had put some black paint all over her face, and we were acting out this skit called Cigar Butts,” LaRavia said in the interview, which the governor’s office released with Ivey’s statement. “I could not go into a lengthy explanation, but to say the least, I think 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 on the floor looking for cigar butts and things like this.”
LaRavia says Ivey got a “big reaction” from the audience. Ivey then says “that was just my role for the evening” before turning the discussion to a story about being unable to remember a joke for the end of the show.
The governor, who is a Republican, said in Thursday’s statement that she “sincerely did not remember the sketch” but said she would “not deny what is 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.”
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The interview was part of a series of profiles of Auburn University students and appears to have aired in 1967. Ivey, then vice president of Auburn’s Student Government Association, graduated with a bachelor’s of science in education that year.
A spokeswoman for Ivey said Thursday afternoon Ivey had contacted leaders in the Alabama Legislature Thursday morning to express her regrets. Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who is African American, said Ivey called him this morning to apologize.
Singleton said if the governor “could take ownership of it,” they could move forward.
“It is painful to us in the African American community,” he said. “This governor — I’ve worked with her as lieutenant governor and now governor. That person portrayed is not the person I’ve experienced working with her.”
Singleton added that he saw an opportunity to have discussions about race in Alabama, “and I hope the governor will lead the race dialogue.”
A message seeking comment was left Thursday with House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville.
Singleton said Ivey told him that it emerged as part of an Auburn University project digitizing old media.
“Libraries staff are systematically digitizing archives data and posting them online, making them fully accessible to the public,” a statement from Auburn University said on Thursday. “The reel-to-reel containing the interview with the Governor is part of that process.”
Gina Maiola, a spokeswoman for the governor, wrote in an email that the Ivey administration “was made aware of this Tuesday evening, and the governor heard the audio for the first time Wednesday morning.”
Maiola said Auburn’s Office of Governmental Affairs informed them of the tape’s existence. Messages seeking comment were left with the Auburn office Thursday afternoon.
Ivey married LaRavia and moved with him to California, where she worked as a high school teacher. The two later divorced, and Ivey moved back to Alabama. LaRavia died in 1994.
In February, the Auburn Plainsman reported that the 1967 Glomerata, the Auburn University yearbook, the page dedicated to Ivey’s sorority featured five women in blackface. Ivey’s office said she did not know anything about the page and did not appear on it.