Tate Reeves thrown into national controversy over racist yearbook photos

Some members of the fraternity donned blackface, wigs and Confederate flags

Tate Reeves thrown into national controversy over racist yearbook photos
Lt. Governor Tate Reeves

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The Republican front-runner in the 2019 Mississippi Governor’s race has been thrown into a national controversy over racist yearbook photos.

Tate Reeves, who is running for governor in this fall’s election, was in Kappa Alpha Order at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. A 1993 yearbook lists him as a freshman that year, and he was featured as a Kappa Alpha member starting in the 1994 yearbook.

Tate Reeves was a freshman in 1993 (Source: Millsaps College)
Tate Reeves was a freshman in 1993 (Source: Millsaps College)

The fraternity, which is still active at Millsaps, looks to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as its spiritual leader.

In Millsaps’ 1995 yearbook, a photograph of Reeves appears next to a photo of members dressed as Confederate soldiers and another of a group in fraternity T-shirts and face paint that some are calling “blackface”. Keep in mind, the photos are in black and white so it’s not clear if the paint is actually black or another color.

Three of the men in the photo are also wearing Confederate flags on their heads and another photo shows dozens of members dressed as Confederate soldiers for the fraternity event known as “Old South”.

The Kappa Alpha fraternity chapter at Millsaps College included photos with face paint, that some are calling "blackface" (bottom right) and Confederate uniforms (top right). Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (bottom left, pictured at right), a member, is also shown posing with another member. Source: Millsaps College
The Kappa Alpha fraternity chapter at Millsaps College included photos with face paint, that some are calling "blackface" (bottom right) and Confederate uniforms (top right). Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (bottom left, pictured at right), a member, is also shown posing with another member. Source: Millsaps College
In the 1993 yearbook the fraternity’s page mocking Pacific Islanders, as well. (Source: Millsaps College)
In the 1993 yearbook the fraternity’s page mocking Pacific Islanders, as well. (Source: Millsaps College)

The images were first uncovered and published by the Democratic super PAC American Bridge on its website, the American Ledger.

This comes after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to donning blackface at parties during their undergraduate careers, leading many to call for their resignations

Reeves’s Communication Director Laura Hipp issued a statement saying,

“As a quick Google search will show, Lt. Gov. Reeves was a member of Kappa Alpha Order. Like every other college student, he did attend costume formals and other parties, and across America, Kappa Alpha’s costume formal is traditionally called Old South in honor of the civil war veteran who founded the fraternity in the 1800s.”

Governor Phil Bryant was asked about the photos while touring the new Continental Tire plant with U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. He said that he had not seen or read anything from that report.

“If that took place with someone within a fraternity certainly I would condemn that. I think that’s the wrong thing that would happen there and as it happened in Virginia," said Governor Bryant. "I don’t know anything about that. I’ve learned over the years to get information before I make any comment.”

Millsaps College also released a statement, it reads in part, “Relative to the images of members of the fraternity shown in blackface, the decision to publish those and any other similar photographs was a mistake. Those actions and images were offensive to African-American students, and not in line with our values at Millsaps College.”

Millsaps College releases statement on yearbook photos.
Millsaps College releases statement on yearbook photos.

A Mason-Dixon poll released Wednesday showed Reeves with a 53-point lead in the GOP primary but indicated a dead heat between Reeves and Jim Hood, the Democratic attorney general, in the general election.

The Mississippi gubernatorial primary is on Aug. 6.

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