RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) — The Rev. Al Sharpton didn’t hold back on his thoughts Thursday about the controversy surrounding Virginia's top leaders.
At the beginning of a speech about community and racial reconciliation at Virginia Union University, he told Gov. Ralph Northam, “You are a blackface user.”
Sharpton spoke to a crowd of about 300 students, faculty, clergy and political leaders at the historically black college.
“If someone had to tell you that you weren’t in the picture, then there’s a chance you could have done it,” Sharpton said.
On Friday, a racist photo emerged on the governor’s yearbook page from 1984.
Northam took responsibility for that photo, but a day later, said in the hours following, he reflected with family and friends and does not believe the photo is of him because he has no memory of it. Northam said that Friday was the first time he saw the yearbook that includes someone in blackface and a KKK robe.
However, a graduate from the same medical school who worked on the yearbook in 1984 told WHSV that it's extremely unlikely a picture could have ended up on someone's personal page without them directly sending it in.
While Northam said he is not in that photo, he said that he did dress up as Michael Jackson when he was 25 years old and darken his face while in San Antonio for a dance contest.
“I flew out of New York to tell you that your political days are over and you need to go on to another life,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton also addressed sexual assault allegations surrounding Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
“Any accusation should be taken seriously and both the woman and Fairfax should not be disrespected,” he said.
“One minute it’s Charlottesville and the next it’s blackface. Virginia keeps popping up,” Sharpton said, referring to the deadly Unite the Right Rally in August 2017.
“If you sin, you must pay for the sin,” he said.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Mark Herring, the next in Virginia's gubernatorial line of succession after Fairfax, also admitted to wearing blackface in the 1980s in order to dress up as a rapper.
Sharpton noted that blackface has always been demeaning to African-Americans, "mocking us, making us minstrels!"