ALABAMA (PM) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) performed a skit in blackface in 1967 at Auburn University, audiotapes from the Governor’s office reveal.
“She had on a pair of blue coveralls and she had put some black paint all over her face,” Ben LaRavia, then Ivey’s fiancé, says in the interview. “We were acting out this skit called Cigar Butts. I cannot 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.”
Ivey’s blackface role involved “crawling around on the floor looking for cigar butts” and “certainly got a big reaction out of the audience,” her then-fiancé said in the interview.
LaRavia snickers as he remembers the evening. Ivey replies with a story about forgetting her lines later on in the evening’s performance, chuckling as well but not saying anything further about her blackface role.
The date of the pageant in question is especially important. 1967 was the first time in a while that Auburn kids didn’t have to question if a black student might see or hear what they had to say.
The first black person to enroll at the school, Harold Franklin, had left Auburn in 1966. “I got tired of the crap,” he told AL.com in a 2013 interview, saying the faculty seemed to hinder his preferred areas of study at every turn. Franklin’s enrollment in January 1964 accompanied two separate court cases reversing the white establishment’s efforts to prevent black people from attending the school.
In a statement, Ivey said:
“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.”