Ralph Northam Resists Calls to Resign as Virginia Governor Over Racist Yearbook Photo

“There is no place for racism in America,” Mr. Biden tweeted. “Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now.”

Other official or potential Democratic candidates who called for Mr. Northam’s resignation included Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; and Julián Castro, the former housing secretary and former mayor of San Antonio.

The controversy was the latest agony over race to befall Virginia, a state that in modern times often seemed to have moved beyond its 400 years of slavery and a 20th-century embrace of segregation, only to be painfully reminded that the past isn’t always past.

Mr. Fairfax stepped off the rostrum of the State Senate last month to protest lawmakers honoring Robert E. Lee. While running for governor, Mr. Northam learned his ancestors had been slave owners. “My family’s complicated story is similar to Virginia’s complex history,” he told The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

And in 2017 white supremacists carrying torches marched in Charlottesville, prompting President Trump to say there were “fine people” on both sides.

Some Democrats initially expressed optimism that Mr. Northam could remain governor. By nightfall, though, there was mounting certainty that the costume picture, as well as the surfacing of an earlier yearbook that revealed that Mr. Northam was nicknamed “Coonman,” a racial slur, as an undergraduate, would leave Mr. Northam crippled.

“Virginia has a particularly sordid history with racism from the first enslaved Africans on our shores, to the capital of the Confederacy to massive resistance to the struggles African-American Virginians face today,” Representative A. Donald McEachin, Democrat of Virginia, said in a statement on Friday.

“In light of that stain on our Commonwealth and the work that still needs to be done, I ask the governor to step aside,” Mr. McEachin, who represents Richmond, added. “While I acknowledge his efforts on behalf of all Virginians and the good he has done as a senator, as our lieutenant governor and now as governor, Virginians have too much to overcome and too much healing yet in front of us.”