Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ alma mater Friday acknowledged the racism of his fraternity’s use of blackface and Confederate emblems while he was a member in the 1990s and expressed regret for allowing them to be displayed in the yearbook.
The yearbooks from Millsaps College during Reeves’ time in Kappa Alpha showed members of the fraternity dressed in blackface and Confederate uniforms and displaying the Confederate flag, the American Ledger reported Friday.“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,” Millsaps said in a statement to the Jackson Free Press. “Those actions and images were offensive to African-American students, and not in line with our values at Millsaps College.”
A spokeswoman for Reeves, who is now the front-runner to become the Republican nominee for governor, seemed to acknowledge that Reeves wore a Confederate uniform at parties, telling the Clarion Ledger, “Like every other college student, he did attend costume formals and other parties.”
When Reeves was in Kappa Alpha, members who were reportedly sporting Afro wigs, blackface and the Confederate flag used the N-word in an altercation with black students on the Jackson, Miss., campus. The college placed the fraternity on probation, banned it from using the Confederate flag and forced members to get sensitivity training.
Both Kappa Alpha and Reeves have well-known sympathies for the Confederacy.
Kappa Alpha lists Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as its “spiritual founder” because of “his religious convictions, exemplary ideals, values, strong leadership, courtesy, respect for others and gentlemanly conduct” and its chapters, until recently, held annual “Old South” celebrations that culminated in a dance with members dressed as Confederate soldiers and women in antebellum dresses.
The fraternity’s national leadership barred the Confederate uniforms in 2010 and the “Old South” name in 2016.
In the statement, Millsaps said those changes had been “implemented and supported” on campus.
Reeves has expressed support for the Sons of Confederate Veterans and keeping the Confederate emblem in the Mississippi flag.
The lieutenant governor declined to comment to to the Clarion Ledger, but his spokeswoman Laura Hipp downplayed the photos or the fraternity’s connection to the Confederacy.
“As a quick Google search will show, Lt. Gov. Reeves was a member of Kappa Alpha Order,” Hipp said in a statement. “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.”
The veteran she referenced was apparently James Ward Wood, a soldier in the 7th Virginia Cavalry Regiment of the Confederate army who founded the fraternity at Washington and Lee University, then known as Washington College.