Wake Forest dean apologizes after 37-year-old yearbook photo resurfaces

Martha Blevins Allman, center in this 1982 photo, is now dean of admissions at Wake Forest University.
Martha Blevins Allman, center in this 1982 photo, is now dean of admissions at Wake Forest University. Screenshot from North Carolina Digital Heritage Center

A North Carolina university leader appeared in front of a Confederate flag in a 1982 yearbook photo and has apologized for “perpetuating harm.”

Martha Blevins Allman, dean of admissions at Wake Forest University, sent a statement Thursday acknowledging she posed in the picture that was published 37 years ago in the school yearbook.

The photo shows her and members of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity standing on a staircase that has a Confederate flag hanging on it, The Howler yearbook shows.

“That flag was a symbol of pain and racism then just as it is now, and I understand that much differently in 2019 than I did in 1982,” Allman said in her statement.

Students during a forum Thursday “raised concerns” about the yearbook photo, university spokeswoman Katie Neal said in an email.

“How can black students and students of color feel comfortable and safe on our campus when there are photos of the Dean of Admissions and soon-to-be Senior Assistant Provost posing proudly in front of a giant confederate flag?” the campus’ chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America posted on Twitter.

Allman, who became a dean in 2001, is set to start in July as the senior assistant provost and dean of university integration, according to a campus news release published last year. That role will involve streamlining student “programs and services,” Wake Forest said.

President Nathan O. Hatch in a campus email Friday referenced Allman’s response to appearing in the Confederate flag photo years ago.

“Since then, she has devoted her professional career to improving Wake Forest, and I have accepted her apology,” Hatch said, adding that he is meeting with student and campus leaders to talk about the future.

Allman said in her statement that she is dedicated to making Wake Forest a welcoming environment.

“Throughout my career in admissions, one of my goals has been to create a more diverse and inclusive Wake Forest,” she said. “It is my hope that I will be judged by my professional dedication to Wake Forest, my faith and civic involvement, and by my future work with the Wake Forest community.”

The university this month acknowledged its old yearbooks “include lynching references, racial slurs and photos of students wearing blackface,” a news release said. The school is trying to make people feel welcome while examining its history, The News & Observer previously reported.

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