ECU responds after blackface photos found in old yearbooks

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Blackface photos have surfaced in two East Carolina University yearbooks, one from 1980 and one from 1962.

The photos surfaced after similar photos were found in a 1979 UNC yearbook and after blackface controversies embroiled high-ranking Democratic officials in Virginia. 

In the 1962 yearbook, members of Alpha Omicron Pi are seen wearing blackface and holding Confederate flags at the “Sorority All Sing.” 

In a photo in the 1980 yearbook, three members from ECU”s Kappa Alpha chapter are seen wearing blackface during a singing contest.

WNCT spoke with a number of ECU students Thursday who said they were surprised and embarrassed by the photo’s existence.

East Carolina University Chancellor Cecil Staton has issued the following response:

Were we to review our history, we would likely find many things for which we would, today, be ashamed. Incidents from 30-year-old yearbooks do not represent who we are today. Today, we fundamentally reject any expressions of racism, bigotry and hatred. And as imperfect as we are, we work hard every day to create an institution that makes all of us proud. ECU’s commitment to cultivating a welcoming environment continues to be a high priority.

We provide many opportunities for the ECU community to learn about diversity and to understand and appreciate cultural differences. In fact, the creation of #ECUnited was a grassroots student movement to bring our campus together as it faces national and global challenges. Through advocacy and education, ECU strives to deepen the understanding of the issues facing our community. Programs like Cupola Conversations and the North Carolina Civility Summit focus on having rich conversations, in a civil manner, about topics such as hate, racism, violence, and political division.

Kappa Alpha assistant executive director Jesse Lyons also released a statement in response to the photo:

This is not appropriate at any time, does not reflect who we are, and would not be tolerated. KA is a moral compass for the modern gentleman and promotes gentlemanly conduct and respect for others.

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