Blackface (Bloomsbury Object Lessons)
A New Statesman essential non-fiction book of 2021
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.
Ayanna Thompson is a Regents Professor of English and Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) at Arizona State University. She is the author of Blackface (Object Lessons) and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race. For more information, visit her website www.ayannathompson.com
Natalie Hopkinson is Associate Professor of Communication, Culture and Media Studies at Howard University. She is the author of Go-Go Live (Duke University Press, 2012) and A Mouth is Always Muzzled (The New Press, 2018). For more information, visit her website
Praise for Blackface:
“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
“Essential! This is a lucid, engaging, and long overdue exorcism of American culture's greatest haunt.” – Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Associate Director, Playwriting MFA program, Hunter College, CUNY, USA, recipient of the Obie Award for Best New American Play (Appropriate, An Octoroon) and Pulitzer Prize finalist (Gloria, Everybody)