Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam held his blackface-meets-KKK med school yearbook photo press conference on Saturday as Ivy League historians took questions about PBS’s four-hour Reconstruction: America After the Civil War at TCA.
A TV critic, asked if Northam’s med school yearbook photo and his refusal to resign are “still part of the anti-Reconstruction narrative.”
“Racism works on subliminal levels; it works on conscious levels, like every other ‘ism,” responded David Blight, author and Yale University history professor.
“I don’t see how [Northam] has any credibility left, because he chose to put it there, and it wasn’t a high school prank. It was a medical school graduation.”
Blight called Northam’s conundrum “a public trust issue,” noting that he holds a public office, adding, “I don’t see how he can stay.”
“But it does show us, once again, that out there is fraternity racism, or party racism, or whatever label you want to give this kind of stuff; it just survives. And it always comes back to surprise us, as Dylann Roof did, with his hideous photographs with all of his flags and his paraphernalia. And then they had to spend so much time wondering, how did a Dylann Roof happen?”
PBS’s Henry Louis Gates, Jr.-hosted project looks at the transformative years following the American Civil War, beginning with the war’s end and emancipation in 1865, to 1915, when the nation was fully entrenched in Jim Crow segregation.
Reconstruction takes the position that the broken promises of the Reconstruction era haunt the country to this day. Reconstruction premieres Tuesdays, April 9 and 16.