USA Today editor apologizes for overseeing college yearbook with blackface photo

USA Today Editor in Chief Nicole Carroll apologized on Wednesday after a review of yearbooks by the outlet found that a college yearbook she edited included a photo of two people in blackface.

USA Today reporters discovered the photo in Carroll’s 1989 yearbook from Arizona State University as part of the publication's review of 900 publications at 120 schools across the U.S.

Carroll, then the editor of the yearbook, designed a page that included a photo of two people at a Halloween party dressed as Mike Tyson and Robin Givens.


“It is horrible, and of course the photo should not have been published,” Carroll wrote.

The editor said she was “shocked” by her colleagues' discovery because, she said, she had no memory of the photo.

“Clearly the 21-year-old me who oversaw the book and that page didn’t understand how offensive the photo was. I wish I had,” Carroll wrote. “Today’s 51-year-old me of course understands and is crushed by this mistake.”

Her public apology, she wrote, was aimed at journalists holding themselves accountable.

“We cannot cover America if we do not reflect America,” Carroll wrote. “Accountability. Transparency. Education. Discussion. That is how I grow. That is how we grow.”

The USA Today analysis uncovered more than 200 examples of offensive or racist material in college publications in 25 states throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

The images uncovered in the review showed students in blackface, Ku Klux Klan robes, Nazi uniforms or wearing orange paint and a headdress to depict stereotypes of Native Americans.

The review came after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) faced nationwide backlash earlier this month after a photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook page depicted one man in blackface and another in a KKK robe.

Northam initially acknowledged appearing in the photo and apologized. The governor later reversed course and said he did not believe he was in the photo, though he acknowledged that he wore blackface in one instance at a dance competition.

The Virginia Democrat has resisted calls for his resignation. 

State Attorney General Mark Herring (D), the second in line to the governorship, admitted that he, too, wore blackface to a party while he was an undergraduate in college.