Activists launch GoFundMe to pay HBCU students to look for 'racist' photos in Virginia lawmakers' yearbooks

A group of activists launched a GoFundMe fundraiser this week to pay students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) to examine the yearbooks of Virginia’s state-level elected officials.

The page, created by Richmond organizer Chelsea Higgs Wise, raised more than $6,200 of its $10,000 goal within a day of its launch.

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“This GoFundMe is to raise funds to pay Virginia HBCU research students from local colleges $25 per hour to do the due diligence that should have already been done on all of Virginia’s state elected representatives," the page says.

"The plan is for research students to go through all of the yearbooks and then publish the results for public reference for current elected officials and those running for office in future elections,” it continues. The efforts will focus first on politicians who are up for reelection in 2019 or 2020.

“With the potential of multiple of our elected officials having racist behavior and imagery in their past, we are in a crisis of leadership,” the page states. “Racism is alive and well in the Commonwealth of Virginia especially with our elected leaders and this must end.”

The page comes as Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) faces rolling controversy stemming from photos that surfaced of a racist photo in his 1984 yearbook. Attorney General Mark Herring (D) has also faced backlash after admitting that he had worn blackface to a party years ago while in college.

Northam has so far resisted an avalanche of bipartisan calls to resign — including from Herring — saying he intends to serve out the remainder of his term.

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D), the state’s second black lieutenant governor in its history, also faces a separate scandal after a woman, Vanessa Tyson, came forward with a detailed statement alleging that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.