National Action Network speaks with The Citadel about blackface photos in yearbooks

VIDEO: National Action Network speaks with The Citadel about blackface photos in yearbooks

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The National Action Network says it spoke with officials at The Citadel recently about old blackface photos in its yearbooks.

The move comes as Virginia Gov. Ralph Norman has come under fire for a blackface photo he says he was not in.

Elder James Johnson says Citadel cadets found five photos in old Citadel yearbooks that depicted different kinds of racist imagery including blackface.

Johnson added that during a meeting with Citadel officials, they promised to take the photos out of the yearbooks and Johnson described the meetings as productive.

“We acknowledged that in the past we do have images that are offensive and we’re very transparent about those” Citadel spokesman Col. John Dorrian said. “We want people to understand that those images have nothing to do with what cadet life is all about now at The Citadel.”

NAN also suggest quarterly meetings with the school’s president to talk about ongoing successful racial relationships and want to raise the number of black cadets from eight percent to 16 percent.

“We know the history of the Citadel,” Johnson said. “And it’s not a good history, it’s a dark history so what we want to do is not remove history but put a lid on that dark history.”

Officials at The Citadel said they acknowledge the offensive photos from their past. Dorrian said that when the Norman story broke in Virginia, Citadel President Gen. Glenn Walters sent out a note to the campus community to make sure people understood that the blackface images have no place in society.

They say they no longer tolerate those kinds of images and are working toward change.

“We very much value NAN’s advice with regard to increasing the number of cadets of color who come to the college,” said Col. John Dorrian, a spokesperson for The Citadel."This is something that’s a shared goal and I think that’s why you saw this as a very productive meeting today."

NAN officials say they look forward to future meetings to talk about solutions.

“This is not something we’re going to shy away from,” Dorrian said. “We’re going to be up front about it and having those conversations, that’s how we all get better and more cognizant of how things should be handled in the future.”

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