Tenn. students apologize for wearing blackface at rap-themed party

Two students at Lee University in Tennessee have apologized for wearing blackface when they dressed up for a rap-themed party last week.

The costumes included long white T-shirts with the title of a popular rap song by YG that includes a variation of the N-word.

The costumes became a public controversy after someone posted a photo of them online Saturday.

Vice President of University Relations Jerome Hammond said the students, Kerri Klenkel and Laura Jones, have apologized. He said they did not realize how offensive their costumes might appear.

Klenkel posted the apology on Twitter. It reads, "Our intention was not to offend anyone in any way. Therefore we are deeply sorry for those we have upset."

The students do not have listed phone numbers and Klenkel did not respond on Friday to a request for comment sent through social media.

Lee is a private Christian school of about 4,500 in Cleveland, Tenn. The school is 83 percent white.

Hammond said the school's leadership team is discussing how to address the issue in a larger way.

He said college students in general are "in the process of becoming citizens of the world" and that does not happen overnight.

"They are part of the grown-up rule book and they haven't read through it," he said. "Who is going to educate them on why this is the wrong this to do? Well, unfortunately for them, the world is."

The students join a number of others who have recently issued apologies for blackface costumes including actress Julianne Hough.

Blackface was common in minstrel shows in the 19th and early 20th centuries where white performers played stereotyped black characters.

Hammond said he was positive the students did not know the history of blackface.