RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Despite receiving an invite and announcing plans to make an appearance, Gov. Ralph Northam will not attend Virginia Union University’s chapel service and discussion, “Faith, Identity and Social Justice” on Thursday.
The trip to VUU was meant to be the governor’s first stop on his “reconciliation tour” after a blackface scandal threatened Northam’s tenure in office.
Virginia Union plans to honor the “Richmond 34,” students from the university who took a stand on integration in 1960 by holding a sit-in at the Thalhimer’s Department Store in Richmond, during the event on Thursday.
Thirty-four students, 11 women and 23 men, were arrested after refusing to leave the whites-only counter.
Gov. Northam announced his decision to not attend the discussion and chapel service on Twitter Wednesday after receiving a letter from the Virginia Union University Student Government calling on him to not show up to the event.
“I appreciate the original invitation of VUU’s administration, but I will abide by the students’ wishes. I accept the Student Government Association’s invitation for future dialogue and honest conversations on issues of race, reconciliation, and equity,” the governor’s statement on Twitter read.
Elizabeth Johnson Rice, a member of the Richmond 34, sent Northam a letter on Wednesday pleading for him to attend the discussion.
“As coordinator and leader of the “Richmond 34″ keeping this group together and informed for these 59 years, I represent many who extend this invitation to you to come and witness and celebrate this 59th anniversary with us,” Rice wrote. “We also want your presence to be a learning tool for atonement and the need for forgiveness for all of us.”
Rice then offers to host a forum with Northam and VUU students and the community, “to discuss issues that can improve us and move the University forward.”
Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story.