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Black Alumni Rebuke Liberty President After Blackface Tweet

Black Liberty Alumni sent a letter to Jerry Falwell Jr. asking for an apology Monday (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons)
Black Liberty Alumni sent a letter to Jerry Falwell Jr. asking for an apology Monday (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons)

More than 30 African-American alumni from Liberty University, a private evangelical school in Lynchburg, are calling on the school’s president to step down or apologize for past statements and “incendiary rhetoric” over the last several years. They sent a letter to Falwell Jr. on Monday asking that he apologize, or step down as president. 

This comes following a series of tweets from Falwell Jr last week, including one that provoked the letter from alumni. In it Falwell Jr. said “I was adamantly opposed to the mandate from @GovernorVA requiring citizens to wear face masks until I decided to design my own. If I am ordered to wear a mask, I will reluctantly comply, but only if this picture of Governor Blackface himself is on it!” He was referring to a picture of Governor Ralph Northam from his medical school yearbook three decades ago, for which he has since apologized. 

“I just felt like it was time to address the situation,” said Eric Carroll, pastor of the Ascension Church RVA, who helped draft the letter to Falwell Jr. He says it’s not meant to be political, or personal. “The rhetoric, the disrespect, the racist, callous attitude that has gone on for the last four years has got to stop.”

The letter goes beyond the Twitter messages to detail years of inappropriate statements that they say have belittled students and staff, encouraged violence, and disrespected people of other faiths.

“Because of your callous rhetoric, we can no longer in good faith encourage students to attend our alma mater or accept athletic scholarships,” the letter reads. “There are many Christians of color who worship in our churches and communities; we will not recommend their attendance at L.U. as long as you continue the unChristlike rhetoric. We will no longer donate funds to the university. We will also actively encourage Christian leaders to decline the invitation to speak at Liberty if you continue to insist on making unChristlike and inappropriate statements that are misrepresentative of Biblical Christianity.” 

Carroll says Falwell needs to make a choice: either remain president of Liberty and apologize, or step down and get into politics. “But you can't do them both because you're offending people and you're offending the gospel. You're giving the gospel a black eye,” Carroll said. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the group had not received a response from Falwell yet. On Monday afternoon after the letter was sent, Falwell tweeted: “Murder is murder. Heartbroken by George Floyd’s ruthless murder! The officer(s) should receive the maximum punishment in Minnesota.  Praying for the Floyd family daily!”

A spokesperson for Liberty University declined to comment on the letter when reached by phone Tuesday morning.


Megan Pauly reports on early childhood and higher education news in Virginia
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