Why are there so many examples of public figures, entertainers, and normal, everyday people in blackface? And why aren't there as many examples of people of color in whiteface? This book explains what blackface is, why it occurred, and what its legacies are in the 21st century. There is a filthy and vile thread-sometimes it's tied into a noose-that connects the first performances of blackness on English stages, the birth of blackface minstrelsy, contemporary performances of blackness, and anti-black racism. Blackface examines that history and provides hope for a future with new performance paradigms.
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.
About the author:
Ayanna Thompson is an activist and scholar of Shakespeare, race, and performance. As a Professor of English at Arizona State University, she directs the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, where she created RaceB4Race, an ongoing conference series and professional network community by and for scholars of color working on issues of race in premodern literature, history, and culture.
"Blackface reveals a legacy of performance that is pointed and detrimental, known but purposely forgotten. Thompson's analysis is exquisite and exact. A new entry for the historical record.” – Ibram X. Kendi, Founding Director, Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, and author of How to Be An Antiracist and Stamped from the Beginning