Photo Emerges of Projo’s Investigative Reporter Hummel in Blackface

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


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Projo Reporter Jim Hummel (R)

A photo of Jim Hummel, the investigative reporter for the Providence Journal and host of “The Lively Experiment” of RI PBS, in blackface has emerged and was sent to GoLocal.

The picture, which was posted to Facebook and tagged Hummel, included a comment from Providence Journal reporter Linda Borg who wrote, “Don’t tell the NAACP about this.”

The date of the photo is not known, and it was taken when Hummel was a reporter for the Providence Journal. Today, the Providence Journal has a contract with Hummel's not-for-profit to publish investigative stories. The other person in the photo is former Providence Journal reporter Jeffrey Hiday -- who is now a communications executive for the RAND Corporation. 

On Monday, the Providence Journal published a story about the Edwards Twins, who in their performance portray African-American performers. In the article about the Edwards, the Journal reported, “The white duo, who were supposed to perform their impersonation act at The Gamm Theatre on Monday, have worn skin-darkening makeup to portray Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder, which the Providence branch of the NAACP calls 'misguided' and 'tone deaf.'"

The Gamm Theater then canceled the contract with the Edwards Twins, which was reported by the ProJo. 

Blackface in National News

Professor David Leonard, Chair of Washington State University's Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies told Vox that, "Today, blackface reinforces the idea that black people are appropriate targets of ridicule and mockery and reminds us of stereotypes about black criminality, and danger. This, says Leonard, can serve to support implicit bias and discriminatory treatment and in areas from law enforcement to employment."

The issue of blackface has recently come to the forefront not just locally -- but nationally.

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A promotional poster for the Edwards Twins

Nationally, the issue of blackface was at the forefront after NBC News host Megyn Kelly “made offending remarks during an awkward roundtable discussion about inappropriate and offensive costumes on her eponymous one-hour block of the 'Today' show, known as 'Megyn Kelly Today,'” reported CNN.

During the segment, CNN reported, Kelly said it was OK when she was growing up for white people to dress up as black characters, and she spoke out against a controversy that erupted last year over a reality star who portrayed Diana Ross.       

"But what is racist?" Kelly asked. "Because you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character."

Immediately after Kelly's comments, there was a backlash against her for justifying blackface.

Kelly immediately apologized.

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Megyn Kelly fired by NBC after blackface comments

"One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get the chance to express and hear a lot of opinions," Kelly said in the internal note, a copy of which was provided by a spokesperson for NBC. "Today is one of those days where listening carefully to other points of view, including from friends and colleagues, is leading me to rethink my own views."

After she apologized for her comment, NBC fired Kelly.

Response - No Apologies

Jim Hummel told GoLocal, "My recollection is that Jeff and I went to a Halloween Party back in the 1980s when we were roommates. Miami Vice was a popular TV program at the time and we decided to go as the two main characters, Crockett and Tubbs - in part because Jeff looked like Don Johnson and had a white linen suit. It was a very long time ago when I was a young man and clearly not reflective of my values and I think anybody who knows me would see it in that context."

"Jim Hummel isn't on our staff; we have a contract to run his stories because of his excellent investigative journalism. Regarding Linda Borg, I don't know which comments you're talking about, as you haven't provided them. Whatever they are, Linda doesn't speak for the Journal. She and our other reporters maintain their own private social-media accounts, which are separate from ours," said Alan Rosenberg, Executive Editor of the Providence Journal. Rosenberg was sent a copy of the photo and the comment by Borg.

David Piccerelli of RI PBS tells GoLocal, "I have spoken with Jim and the origin of this picture is from a Halloween Party he attended in the 1980s and has absolutely no reflection on his values or beliefs. Jim is an outstanding journalist and a well-respected person in our community.”

Diversity at the Providence Journal

In 2017, GoLocal reported that the Providence Journal newsroom was void of any minority reporters or editors.

The Providence Journal currently does not employ a minority reporter or editor. For the daily newspaper in an urban community that is majority-minority, the lack of any representation in the newsroom is in stark contrast to the community it covers. 

In 2015, the Providence Journal wrote a multi-piece series titled "Race in Rhode Island," but now less than two years later, the last minority reporter, Alisha Pina, has resigned and taken a job in public relations for the State of Rhode Island.

“I was saddened to see Alisha Pina move on. While our communities have become more diverse in cultures, races and languages spoken, the newsrooms made up of people of color have reduced drastically,” said Ann Clanton of the National Association of Black Journalists, New England Chapter.

Editor's Note: A previous version of the article said the Gamm production was canceled after the Journal article; it was canceled before. 


Related Slideshow: Incidents of Hate: Racism, Anti-Semitism, and Politics—See All the Numbers, Oct 2018

Map produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Prev Next

Reported Harassment Cases in RI

Source: ADL

2015: 1

2016: 2

2017: 7

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Prev Next

Reported Cases Vandalism Cases in RI

Source: ADL

2015: 0

2016: 5

2017: 6

View Larger +
Prev Next

Total Hate Crimes in RI — Harassment, Vandalism and Assaults

Source: ADL

2015: 1

2016: 7

2017: 13

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Prev Next

Southern Poverty Law Center Identifies Three Hate Groups Operating in RI

Vanguard America

Rhode Island (statewide) NEO-NAZI

Traditionalist Worker Party


Gallows Tree Wotansvolk Alliance

Rhode Island (statewide) NEO-VOLKISCH

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Southern Poverty Law Center Identifies Ten Hate Groups Operating in MA

Concerned Citizens and Friends of Illegal Immigration Law Enforcement

Framingham, Massachusetts GENERAL HATE

The Daily Stormer

Massachusetts (statewide) NEO-NAZI

Vanguard America

Massachusetts (statewide)NEO-NAZI

Mass Resistance

Waltham, Massachusetts ANTI-LGBT

Nation of Islam


ACT for America


Israel United In Christ

Boston, Massachusetts BLACK NATIONALIST

Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge

Lynn, Massachusetts BLACK NATIONALIST

Nation of Islam


Abiding Truth Ministries

Springfield, Massachusetts ANTI-LGBT

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Southern Poverty Law Center Identifies six Hate Groups Operating in CT

American Guard

Connecticut (statewide) GENERAL HATE

The Daily Stormer

Connecticut (statewide) NEO-NAZI

ACT for America


United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors/All Eyes on Egipt


Vanguard America

Hartford, Connecticut NEO-NAZI

Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ

Bridgeport, Connecticut BLACK NATIONALIST 

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Prev Next

Total Hate Crimes in MA — Harassment, Vandalism and Assaults

Source: ADL


2016: 125

2017: 177

View Larger +
Prev Next

Total Hate Crimes in CT — Harassment, Vandalism and Assaults

Source: ADL

2015: 26

2016: 38

2017: 49


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