The complicated racial history that underpins politics in Virginia

The complicated racial history that underpins politics in Virginia
Ralph Northam/Official
Ralph Northam/Official

Political enemies and allies alike are calling for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, to step down after a racist photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook was uncovered. But Northam has shown no inclination to do so. Now the two Democratic officials in line behind him to assume the governorship are both embroiled in scandals of their own.


The controversies rocking Richmond are a reminder of the complicated racial history that underpins Virginia politics.

Northam had strong support from African-American voters in his 2017 race for governor. Now black leaders say they've been let down after seeing the racist photo in his medical school yearbook.

"Because those images bring back hate, bring to memory ... things that we are trying to heal over, get over, put it in the past," said Robert Barnett, vice president of the Virginia NAACP, which has called for Northam to resign.

The weight of history is strong in the commonwealth.

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