Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is resisting pressure to resign, and has reportedly been given homework by his advisers to read 'Roots' and 'The Case for Reparations'

ralph northamVirginia Gov. Ralph Northam pauses during a news conference in the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Va., on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019.Associated Press/Steve Helber

  • Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is reportedly trying to rehabilitate his image by emphasizing racial equality in his legislative agenda, and reading the works of prominent African-American writers.
  • Northam's advisers have instructed him to read Alex Haley's "Roots" and Ta-Nehisi Coates' "The Case for Reparations," BuzzFeed News reported Friday.
  • Northam has resisted calls to resign as governor after a photo from his 1984 yearbook page surfaced, featuring a person wearing blackface and another person wearing Ku Klux Klan-style robes.
  • Northam says neither figure in the photo is him, but that he wore blackface on a separate occasion.

Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has continued to resist pressure to resign amid accusations of racism, insisting that he was not in a photo featured on his 1984 yearbook page that included a person in blackface and a person in a Ku Klux Klan-style hood.

Since then, Northam has laid low despite the vehement calls to resign from top Democrats in Virginia and across the country. Instead, Northam's office is trying to pivot his agenda to one of racial equality and educate him about systemic racism by using prominent African-American literature, BuzzFeed News reported.

Northam held a bizarre press conference last Saturday, denying that he was in the photo but conceding that he had worn blackface on a separate occasion as part of a Michael Jackson costume.

Sources close to Northam told the news outlet that his staff is exploring policy proposals that would address the state's history of racism against black Virginians, targeting issues like affordable housing, education, and public transportation.

"Now that he knows better he is going to do better," one Northam adviser told BuzzFeed News.

Read more: A wave of scandals has turned Virginia politics on its head, and the state's top three politicians could all be on the way out

ralph northamGovernor Ralph Northam addresses the media Saturday, February 2, 2019 at the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Va.Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Part of the rehabilitation effort reportedly includes educating Northam on influential literature written by black Americans.

Northam is currently reading "Roots," the 1976 Alex Haley novel about an 18th-century enslaved man brought to the United States, as well as "The Case for Reparations," the wildly popular Atlantic essay written by Ta-Nehisi Coates in 2014 about America's legacy redlining African-Americans through racist housing policies.

Beyond that, Northam has also hired a strategic communications firm to help manage his image and to investigate how the photo was included on his yearbook page, BuzzFeed News reported. Northam has said he never saw nor bought the yearbook, though yearbook staffers and former classmates of Northam have said that students submitted their own photos to their personal pages.

Northam, however, reportedly grew suspicious when he noticed that both figures in the photo were holding beers in their right hands. Northam is left-handed.

According to BuzzFeed News, Northam initially decided to admit he was in the photo because his training at the Virginia Military Institute taught him the value of accepting responsibility.

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