The old yearbook photos capture the lighthearted moments from college worth remembering – smiling faces, pep rallies and cans of cheap beer.
But tucked in and among those same pages are pictures of students dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes and blackface, nooses and mock lynchings, displays of racism not hidden but memorialized as jokes to laugh about later.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, a stunning number of colleges and university yearbooks published images of blatant racism on campus, the USA TODAY Network found in a review of 900 publications at 120 schools across the country.
At Cornell University in New York, three fraternity members are listed in the 1980 yearbook as “Ku,” “Klux” and “Klan.” For their 1971 yearbook picture, a dozen University of Virginia fraternity members, some armed, wore dark cloaks and hoods while peering up at a lynched mannequin in blackface. In one of the most striking images – from the 1981 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign yearbook – a black man is smiling and holding a beer while posing with three people in full KKK regalia.