Black students from Mr. Northam’s era recalled a divided campus in which they and their white classmates sat in class together but largely socialized apart.

“The problem is that people who put offensive things on their yearbook page, they weren’t cognizant of the people they were offending,” said Dr. David Randolph Sr., 59, an oncologist in Richmond, Va., who is black and who graduated from the medical school in 1983. “They had no concern for the people whose feelings that they were hurting.”

Some white students said that nothing seemed out of the ordinary when their white classmates wore blackface. It was typical at costume parties or at talent shows, said Dr. William Elwood, a retired family physician who is white and who graduated in 1984, the same year as Mr. Northam.

Dr. Elwood worked on the yearbook that year, laying out pages, he said. For their personal pages, students would submit their own photos to the staff, he said. The designers would lay them out on the page, he said, and mark where each photo was to be placed. The photos were then put into an envelope, which was attached to the page where they belonged and sent to the press to be printed.

Mr. Northam, after initially saying that he was in the offensive photograph on his page, has since said he was not and that he had not seen the photo before.

Mr. Elwood said he did not recall laying out Mr. Northam’s page. But he did recall the yearbook including a picture of three men dressed in wigs, dresses and blackface, pretending to be The Supremes, he said. It did not offend him and he did not think twice about whether the photo should have been in the yearbook, he said.

“It was done as part of a dress up, being somebody you’re not,” Dr. Elwood, 68, said. “It was not done as some kind of racial thing.”