Black Virginians took back Ralph Northam. Neither of them forgot.


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News of the photo was spread on Friday when Mr. Northam was traveling to attend a funeral for a Gold Star family.

“My first answer was someone did Photoshop on this,” he said. “I think it took a while for the situation to get serious.”

Marcia S. Price, a black member of the Virginia House of Representatives who had served as co-chair of Mr Northam’s campaign for governorship, said when she saw the report she urged her staff to leave her office and broke in Tears out.

“The first reaction was that it hurt,” she said. “It hurt like hell.”

The national convictions were quick and straightforward. Democratic presidential candidates fighting for the votes of the Southern Blacks called for Mr. Northam’s resignation. Joseph R. Biden Jr. said the governor has “lost all moral authority and should resign immediately.” Local black lawmakers and activists called for his removal at a protest rally at the state capitol.

By that Saturday, however, Mr. Northam had made it clear in public statements and private meetings that he had no intention of resigning. In the most recent interview, the governor said he did not consider it hypocritical to say he understood the pain he has caused many Black Virginians despite rejecting their calls for resignation.

“I know myself. I know how I grew up. I know I got this job because I wanted to help people,” said Northam. “The people who were close to me – my friends, my pastor, I can go through this list – everyone said, ‘This is not the time for you to step aside.’ “

Mr. Northam soon received an unforeseen godsend that complicated the moral calculation for the black elected officials of the state. His lieutenant governor and potential successor, Justin Fairfax, has been accused of sexual assault by two women, despite repeated denial of the allegations. Then the third-tier state official, Attorney General Mark Herring, voluntarily admitted wearing blackface to a party in 1980.

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