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Blackface

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A New Statesman essential non-fiction book of 2021 Featured in Book Riot's 12 best nonfiction books about Black identity and history 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 A New Statesman essential non-fiction book of 2021 Featured in Book Riot's 12 best nonfiction books about Black identity and history 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.


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A New Statesman essential non-fiction book of 2021 Featured in Book Riot's 12 best nonfiction books about Black identity and history 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 A New Statesman essential non-fiction book of 2021 Featured in Book Riot's 12 best nonfiction books about Black identity and history 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.

30 review for Blackface

  1. 4 out of 5

    Theediscerning

    I think what I can say about this book is that it compelled me to like the author's knowledge, research and erudition, but not her expectations. The way it is structured means we spin off from her horror at seeing an eight-year old at a decent school's presentation mimic (for purely academic and seemingly admirable reasons) someone of colour by using darkening make-up effects, into a perfectly readable history of black-face performance and the inherent racism behind minstrelsy and so on. So we l I think what I can say about this book is that it compelled me to like the author's knowledge, research and erudition, but not her expectations. The way it is structured means we spin off from her horror at seeing an eight-year old at a decent school's presentation mimic (for purely academic and seemingly admirable reasons) someone of colour by using darkening make-up effects, into a perfectly readable history of black-face performance and the inherent racism behind minstrelsy and so on. So we learn how for centuries white people have derided the black man through performance, or denigrated the black body by putting it on show as 'the other' – and we also see the counter to that, of hatred for the actor of colour presenting as a white character. This all builds to a charge that could be levelled at copious politicians who might or might not have fallen on a sword they planted decades ago, the charge being that their past insensitivity in blacking up makes them unfit for office now. It certainly builds to a charge that anyone blacking up for a TV skit should know better. But I never felt the attitude that the girl was in the wrong, even when it's constantly pointed out how none of her coloured collaborators whited up, worked here. It seems illiberal to suggest the girl was guilty of something akin to an offence – he said, full of white innocence (of course). In a world where we're told children are never born racist but only told to be so later through the nurture they receive, I don't think any quality of school would have made somebody they'd had charge of for three years max realise it was a racialised issue. Therefore the hanging all this round the neck of such a young person seemed a big flaw. Still, from a small mistake a great virtue can be had, and this book – one I doubted would work in this series of studies of objects you'd scarcely imagine yourself reading about, but patently did – has many virtues. I learnt more about performance history than I expected, and certainly a lot more about Dartmoor Prison. But I still think the charge should be at society, parents or teachers – not eight year old girls.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Patrícia

    I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review This book is perhaps shorter than I would like it to be. I understand the series Object Lessons is made to be short and in that regard it does its job very well. There are interesting points being made in this book (particularly the question "why didn't the black kids thought about doing white face when dressing up as someone white?"). I was aware of the recent controversies regarding influencers and brands and had a ba I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review This book is perhaps shorter than I would like it to be. I understand the series Object Lessons is made to be short and in that regard it does its job very well. There are interesting points being made in this book (particularly the question "why didn't the black kids thought about doing white face when dressing up as someone white?"). I was aware of the recent controversies regarding influencers and brands and had a basic knowledge of the history of black face. This book although short, was still able to show me historical events of relevance that I was not fully aware or didn't know in detail. The tone is not too academic and is pretty accessible. Overall it was an interesting quick read that would recommend as a starting point to people interested on the subject.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    This is an interesting idea for the Object Lessons series from Bloomsbury. Blackface seems like more of an idea or practice than an object, yet semantic quibbles aside, Ayanna Thompson presents a concise and compelling overview of the subject. Blackface discusses the history of the practice, and in particular, Thompson helps us understand how power imbalances between white and Black performers have contributed to the unequal dynamic in which white people often feel ok performing Blackface and “B This is an interesting idea for the Object Lessons series from Bloomsbury. Blackface seems like more of an idea or practice than an object, yet semantic quibbles aside, Ayanna Thompson presents a concise and compelling overview of the subject. Blackface discusses the history of the practice, and in particular, Thompson helps us understand how power imbalances between white and Black performers have contributed to the unequal dynamic in which white people often feel ok performing Blackface and “Blackness,” but Black people do not have the same privilege of whitening their faces and performing a kind of “whiteness” for entertainment. My thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the e-ARC to review. The book begins by framing the question based on a person experience of Thompson’s. Her daughter was in Grade 8 and participated in a day where students had to dress up as famous historical people they had researched. Some of the white children in the class had researched Black people (great) and decided to wear blackface as part of their costume (not great). Thompson brought this to the attention of the school administration. They were resistant to acknowledge this as a systemic problem or take any steps to prevent it from happening again. And so, Thompson starts us off on our journey. She wants us to understand that blackface isn’t merely “white people being racist” but that rather it has a very coherent history one can learn if one does the research (or, you know, reads this book based on Thompson’s research). My positionality, by the way, is that I am a white woman in Canada. Prior to reading this book, I already knew blackface was bad, and I was very much aware of issues with politicians and celebrities like our very own prime minister. I had a simplistic understanding of blackface’s history as it relates to minstrel shows, Jim Crow caricatures, Al Jolson, etc. But if you have much the same understanding and think that means you don’t need to read this book, then you would be wrong. Thompson takes us all the way back to Shakespearean England—yes, that is right, circa 1600. She examines how acting at that time was full of race- and genderbending, since actors were white men. Actors took pride in performing blackface to be more “authentic.” I also had no idea that Dartmoor Prison had such a thriving theatre company, so that was an interesting aside. Thompson traces the direct line of influence from Shakespearean England through to actors of the nineteenth century. Along the way, she points out how Black actors struggled to be taken seriously as thespian talents, whereas white actors donning blackface were usually lauded for their performance. All of this information is crucial for us to understand the turning tide in the 20th century, how we got from the Jazz Singer to “hmm, that makes me uncomfortable” with Laurence Olivier’s Othello. See, Thompson’s crucial point here is that it’s not enough for white people to walk away knowing that blackface is bad because it’s racist. We need to understand how blackface perpetuates stereotypes about Black people, and how white people’s feeling of freedom to perform blackface is itself a privilege embedded within our white supremacist society. At the end of the day, this is not about Grade 8 white kids dressing up in blackface. But it is about how a school administration, upon learning of this, shrugged it off as no big deal. It is about the incredible amount of advocacy Black people have to exhaust themselves doing merely to get an iota of respect white people receive by default. It is about challenging simplistic or incomplete understandings of our history—which is, again, not a failure on the parts of ourselves as individuals, but a failure of the systems in which we’ve been raised. Blackface is an object lesson all right—an object lesson in the tangible, cultural costs of white supremacy and how it creates a gulf between peoples where none need exist. Originally posted on Kara.Reviews, where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    Right up front, I want to say that this is a short and incredibly informative read on the history of the subject, a guide that's supremely helpful if you wish to educate yourself about the origins, results, and where the future might take us, especially considering the BLM movement. As a white guy, I admit that I didn't become familiar with the blackface term until my mid-20s, as I never knew anyone who had done it, and had only seen a few movies with it in there. It wasn't until I had gotten ou Right up front, I want to say that this is a short and incredibly informative read on the history of the subject, a guide that's supremely helpful if you wish to educate yourself about the origins, results, and where the future might take us, especially considering the BLM movement. As a white guy, I admit that I didn't become familiar with the blackface term until my mid-20s, as I never knew anyone who had done it, and had only seen a few movies with it in there. It wasn't until I had gotten out and lived a little, I guess you could say, until I was lightly educated on what it encompassed, and more greatly informed regarding how problematic it is. Thompson's work here is valuable in that it demands seeing things from her perspective, and, even if I agree with her or not on some minor details (the next two paragraphs), I certainly am just here to shut up and soak in the main points. Quickly familiarizing the reader with just how far back this phenomenon goes, it's an eye-opening trip through the past, especially when you come upon the section on Shakespeare. I was previously unaware of the instances of Othello that had been played by (prominent) white actors, and that is quite a thing to discover. I figured that Stiller's works Tropic Thunder and Zoolander would come up, and I was very curious to see how she integrated them into her discussion. I hadn't thought before on how Downey, Jr. was adorned with awards for his performance that set out to skewer the movie industry's romance with white actors feeling entitled to playing characters of different races, which was a brilliant point, but Stiller's satire takes sharp turns to suggest at numerous points in the film that Lazarus is not to be praised--he is a fool, and he's doing something that is objectively wrong. In the case of Zoolander, I think it's the titular character just being an idiot and taking it to eleven--the hiding and utilization of his makeup skills were the means to the end of scaring his dad and, again, being a fool. I admittedly got a little weary of the coming back to the indictment of the eight-year-old that was wearing blackface; while I think that the child was indeed failed by the adults around her, this book makes the case that ignorance does not equal innocence and, while certainly in many cases that is golden advice (it's a key takeaway I obtained, for sure), I think that this young child...well, she should be given a little slack. There's a lack of mercy in that oft-used example that threatens to dampen the education that Thompson's seeking to deliver. I came to this book to learn, to absorb, and to improve my awareness regarding blackface, not only for myself, but to help others if it ever came up. It's a relatively quick read, dense with historical facts, astutely written, and most definitely could serve as a resource to visit time and again. Many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Academic for the advance read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Britt

    Blackface by Ayanna Thompson is a short book about - you guessed it - blackface. I am very thankful for getting to read this ARC. My country, the Netherlands, has its own blackface tradition in the shape of Zwarte Piet/Black Pete that is still very much present in the twenty-first century. Thompson explains blackface's origin in old Shakespearean plays in England and how that evolved into minstrel shows. Then with older and more modern examples, she explains how Black bodies have been and are por Blackface by Ayanna Thompson is a short book about - you guessed it - blackface. I am very thankful for getting to read this ARC. My country, the Netherlands, has its own blackface tradition in the shape of Zwarte Piet/Black Pete that is still very much present in the twenty-first century. Thompson explains blackface's origin in old Shakespearean plays in England and how that evolved into minstrel shows. Then with older and more modern examples, she explains how Black bodies have been and are portrayed in movies and on television. She also explains how white innocence is used as an excuse when it turns out that celebrities and/or political figures have done blackface. "I did not know better." or "I did it because I love/feel inspired by him/her/them." etc. See this following quote: "Up until this current moment, white people have believed that performing blackness was a white property that could -- if done with the proper intent -- demonstrate, physically, one's love of black identity and culture. Of course, this assumption rests on the white supremacist belief that white innocence trumps all, including a violently racist history." Thompson was clear in her chapters and wrote in an easily understandable language. I would love for her work to be translated into Dutch so there will be more understanding about why our tradition of Black Pete has to stop. I truly recommend Blackface to my fellow Dutchies and others who are still ignorant about it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    Libro interesante sobre blackface, su historia y su legado. El punto de partida, con la autora sorprendida por ver niños (compañeros de clase de su hijo) disfrazados con blackface para representar personajes históricos, funciona muy bien como hilo conductor a través de las diferentes ideas que expone el libro. He echado de menos algo más de información sobre los orígenes (aunque sea para aclarar que no se conocen) y menos sobre Shakespeare: el libro orbita mucho en torno a él, ya sea para hablar d Libro interesante sobre blackface, su historia y su legado. El punto de partida, con la autora sorprendida por ver niños (compañeros de clase de su hijo) disfrazados con blackface para representar personajes históricos, funciona muy bien como hilo conductor a través de las diferentes ideas que expone el libro. He echado de menos algo más de información sobre los orígenes (aunque sea para aclarar que no se conocen) y menos sobre Shakespeare: el libro orbita mucho en torno a él, ya sea para hablar de “los tiempos de Shakespeare” o de sus obras, incluso a la hora de buscar las huellas culturales que el blackface tiene en el presente, pese a haber ejemplos más diversos que podrían hacer más sólidos los análisis que hace. El capítulo sobre el legado e impacto de blackface minstrelsy en los creadores negros sí me ha parecido muy educativo e interesante. Me ha hecho reconsiderar la manera en la que he visto/interpretado muchas películas y cultura en general. Por esto y por el resto de aportes sobre la práctica de blackface creo que merece ser leído (y, quizás así, dejemos definitivamente de "pintar" cada año a Baltasar).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Great book on the history and impact of blackface and other racist performance modes. Normally I like the brevity of Object Lessons books but I wished this one was longer!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lydie

    Ever since the BLM protests in June I have been wanting to broaden the books I read so I can learn more about issues concerning the black community and racism in general. This was the perfect book to start on as it covered a topic that is has been in the news quite frequently which is: Blackface: Blackface is defined as the act of darkening one’s skin in order to imitate a person of colour. Thompson open the book with a personal experience of confronting blackface being done. This leads to on ta Ever since the BLM protests in June I have been wanting to broaden the books I read so I can learn more about issues concerning the black community and racism in general. This was the perfect book to start on as it covered a topic that is has been in the news quite frequently which is: Blackface: Blackface is defined as the act of darkening one’s skin in order to imitate a person of colour. Thompson open the book with a personal experience of confronting blackface being done. This leads to on talking about celebrities from a wide a range of famous backgrounds who have done. This with the personal experience all have one thing in common: white innocence. When confronted about doing blackface many of these celebrities feigned ignorance and claimed to have a lack of knowledge on the matter and it doesn’t reflect their views now. Thomspon does an excellent job of explaining this. Another thing that I greatly enjoyed was learning about the history of blackface and as a result why ignorance and innocence are not a valid excuse. All in all this was a good read and has helped me want to learn more about the topic. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes learning about history and wants to broaden their knowledge on current societal issues. * I was given a digital ARC of this book in exchange for a review

  9. 4 out of 5

    Peter Baran

    I'll leave aside whether "Blackface" is an object because this book is too important for that kind of nit-picking. Whether it fits in the Object Lesson series in general is kind of moot (not least because it is a very loose theme), and certain the lesson here is one to be taken. I know quite a bit about blackface minstrelsy from my film degree, but the ignorance on the subject matter became increasingly clear last year during the "purge of the blackface" after the George Floyd murder. Thompson w I'll leave aside whether "Blackface" is an object because this book is too important for that kind of nit-picking. Whether it fits in the Object Lesson series in general is kind of moot (not least because it is a very loose theme), and certain the lesson here is one to be taken. I know quite a bit about blackface minstrelsy from my film degree, but the ignorance on the subject matter became increasingly clear last year during the "purge of the blackface" after the George Floyd murder. Thompson wrote this while that was going on, there are some very powerful real-time musings near the end, but the start of the book cleverly not only removes some of the political charge to ask a couple of simple questions. Why, in her child's private school, during a project to honour heroes, was it not seen to be wrong fro a white child to black up when portraying Martin Luther King? And why didn't black children "white-up" when honouring a white hero? The second question in particular is one I hadn't thought much about before and of course gives lie to some of the honouring and equivalence arguments that get thrown around. Why did people not realise it was bad, and why do they feel ignorance would be a sufficient response. Thompson goes back much further than I expected in her adroit answer to these questions, with a significant part of her response eschewing pinning all of the "birth of blackface" on the racism from slavery era USA (that does get its lumps). But instead there is a concentration on blackface within performance from Shakespeare and his period to show how normalised it was as a mode of performance, whilst also considering that the exhibition of an "exotic" (black) body was pretty common Elizabethan entertainment. Its in that flipped question - why no whiteface - that this approach threw new things at me, not least black actors who did indeed occasionally use whiteface. In illustrating this she lays plain a power within the system and within performance which the only praise a black actor was going to get was back-handed and innate inferiority is assumed. This all sets the stage for blackface minstrelsy, and how no matter the intent the codification of race-crossing would always privilege the white actor (who can always use ignorance, and homage as ways to weasel out). I think the book sets out its aim and succeeds at it perfectly. It answers its own central questions and does indeed provide a quickly read primer for people like the school principal in the introduction. The last section where some more complex angles of critical race theory get teased (not least modes of performance for black actors) can't help but slightly suffer in comparison - and its a little odd that there isn't a little more on black blackface minstrelsy as it would probably bolster some of the issues around black actors playing black stereotypes (not least the drag fatsuit Mammy stereotypes of Tyler Perry and Martin Lawrence). But space is short, and there are plenty of other places to discuss those issues, whilst perhaps having an absolute moratorium on actual blackface for whatever reason in the meantime. [Netgalley ARC]

  10. 5 out of 5

    J Earl

    Blackface from Ayanna Thompson is an important contribution to both the Object Lessons series and the (perpetually) ongoing discussion about disrespect, if not blatant racism, toward our fellow human beings. Thompson offers an excellent historical account that avoids the common starting point, especially in the United States, of either pre-Civil War or Jim Crow era. This can help those who claim the Confederacy as their "heritage" to not feel they are being singled out. As evidenced by the list o Blackface from Ayanna Thompson is an important contribution to both the Object Lessons series and the (perpetually) ongoing discussion about disrespect, if not blatant racism, toward our fellow human beings. Thompson offers an excellent historical account that avoids the common starting point, especially in the United States, of either pre-Civil War or Jim Crow era. This can help those who claim the Confederacy as their "heritage" to not feel they are being singled out. As evidenced by the list of relatively recent incidents (30 years or so) and the even more recent (largely failed) attempts at apology (past few years), those who believe(d) blackface was appropriate is not limited to those from the southern or rural US. Ultimately, the hard part to understand is how someone can be okay with doing something that insults a group of people no matter the context. I am 62 and blackface is something I have never thought of as being okay, whether for a party or as part of a "tribute." So this is not about cancel culture or new sensitivities, this is about finally being called to account for racial insults and white (unwarranted) privilege. Highly recommended for those genuinely curious about the rationale behind the offensiveness as well as those wanting informed explanations for when they are trying to help people understand. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    Blackface is a short, academic, and very readable history of blackface, from its earliest origins to the present day. Ayanna Thompson carefully builds a picture of a practice which is not simply about a white person darkening their skin and wearing a wig, but which is an act that allows white people to 'perform' blackness, while not allowing black people to 'perform' either whiteness or blackness. Thompson makes it clear that she is not interested in labelling specific examples of blackface as r Blackface is a short, academic, and very readable history of blackface, from its earliest origins to the present day. Ayanna Thompson carefully builds a picture of a practice which is not simply about a white person darkening their skin and wearing a wig, but which is an act that allows white people to 'perform' blackness, while not allowing black people to 'perform' either whiteness or blackness. Thompson makes it clear that she is not interested in labelling specific examples of blackface as racist or not racist. Instead, she focuses on centring blackface as part of popular culture, from Shakespeare, to minstrel shows, to black-and-white films, to SNL. In this way, she is able to show that it is a tradition that is continuing, and which is still affecting both black and white viewers and performers - albeit in noticeably different ways. Anyone already engaged in discussions around race, racism, society and culture is unlikely to be surprised by Blackface, but the examples Thompsons gives and stories she traces are undoubtedly both fascinating and sobering. If you're looking to learn more about the shared histories of theatre and racism, or simply to be able to better understand and articulate why blackface is not OK, this is the book for you. An ARC was generously provided by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brice Fuqua

    The genesis of Blackface was an event that occurred when the author attended an event her child's tony private elementary school. Assigned oral presentations on famous Americans, a white boy wore blackface to portray Dr. Martin Luther King. Neither the child, his parents nor school officials saw anything offensive in the wearing of blackface in that context. This led Ayanna Thompson to explore the history of White depictions of African-Americans, from Nineteenth Century minstrel shows to 30 Roc The genesis of Blackface was an event that occurred when the author attended an event her child's tony private elementary school. Assigned oral presentations on famous Americans, a white boy wore blackface to portray Dr. Martin Luther King. Neither the child, his parents nor school officials saw anything offensive in the wearing of blackface in that context. This led Ayanna Thompson to explore the history of White depictions of African-Americans, from Nineteenth Century minstrel shows to 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live. Usually, these portrayals were done for comic effect and almost always invoked negative racial stereotypes. When criticized for donning blackface, today's perpetrators universally proclaim their innocence. They deny that their intentions were to offend despite the long, racist history of White entertainers who wore burned cork to mock African-Americans. Thompson concludes this brief book with a note of hope due to the widespread protests that broke out following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Perhaps the brutal death of Floyd will cause Whites to think twice before assuming that their privilege extends to darkening their skins to caricature those of another race. Blackface is a brief but powerful read and would be a good choice for book clubs who want to go beyond their usual fare.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    An important and timely book on the history and use of Blackface by a Shakespeare scholar and as part of the Object lessons series of short books about the hidden history of ordinary things. Ayanna Thompson was moved to write this book when several 8 year old children adopt Blackface in order to represent their heroes at her child's school and the school failure to recognise why this is problematic. She goes on to present a detailed and thoroughly researched history of Blackface in the UK and th An important and timely book on the history and use of Blackface by a Shakespeare scholar and as part of the Object lessons series of short books about the hidden history of ordinary things. Ayanna Thompson was moved to write this book when several 8 year old children adopt Blackface in order to represent their heroes at her child's school and the school failure to recognise why this is problematic. She goes on to present a detailed and thoroughly researched history of Blackface in the UK and the US, before outlining all the reasons why it is problematic and the defence that many stars have used of 'white innocence' is unacceptable. She also finishes the book with how some Black male performers have also conducted their own version of Blackface by putting on fat suits and cross dressing to mock Black women. A short book but a far from easy read, it is an important addition to the books about representation particularly in the media and how it is important especially when it comes to race. With thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zoe Jackson

    In this short primer on Blackface the author explores this history of the act, the reasoning behind it and the harmful effects that it has. Thompson starts by recounting seeing several children dressed in blackface at her child’s school to give presentations about their heroes and is horrified, while also wondering why none of the Black children adjusted their appearances to look more white. This works well as a springboard into the topic and Thompson’s argument that much stress is out on White In this short primer on Blackface the author explores this history of the act, the reasoning behind it and the harmful effects that it has. Thompson starts by recounting seeing several children dressed in blackface at her child’s school to give presentations about their heroes and is horrified, while also wondering why none of the Black children adjusted their appearances to look more white. This works well as a springboard into the topic and Thompson’s argument that much stress is out on White innocence when blackface is performed, a luxury not afforded to Black people themselves. I found the volume educational and accessible and would recommend it to anyone looking for an approachable guide to the topic and to deepening their understanding of racism in the Western world. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tasha (Amaysn Reads)

    This short non-fiction goes into the history of blackface and how it has been presented in different forms of entertainment since the 1600's. It is framed by the author talking about an event at her kid's school of which they had to dress as historical figures. Through this event at a predominately white private school, some of the students did blackface to be figures like MLK. The school's principal didn't understand the problem. The most interesting thing to me in the book was the long history This short non-fiction goes into the history of blackface and how it has been presented in different forms of entertainment since the 1600's. It is framed by the author talking about an event at her kid's school of which they had to dress as historical figures. Through this event at a predominately white private school, some of the students did blackface to be figures like MLK. The school's principal didn't understand the problem. The most interesting thing to me in the book was the long history of blackface. I mean it dates back to Shakespeare. I liked the discussion of white innocence when doing blackface as a reason to not be offended. She dives into this pretty deeply. I think that if you are interested in the topic, this is definitely worth your time reading. I learned a lot more about the history of blackface that I didn't know.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Westlake

    For anyone looking for a short and concise introduction to the history and complexity of race as it relates to blackface, begin here. It is a short read, but one that breaks down a very complex and unsettling topic. It is far-reaching in scope, addressing both contemporary and historical questions. It's a great place to begin research or to begin to think about the conversation of race, without getting too much into theory or the nuances of racial history. Parts of this book are great for upper h For anyone looking for a short and concise introduction to the history and complexity of race as it relates to blackface, begin here. It is a short read, but one that breaks down a very complex and unsettling topic. It is far-reaching in scope, addressing both contemporary and historical questions. It's a great place to begin research or to begin to think about the conversation of race, without getting too much into theory or the nuances of racial history. Parts of this book are great for upper high school students or undergrads that I teach; with plenty of examples that bring the issue home. I was concerned that the book would err on the side of too much theory but this is not the case. In an effort to not summarize the short book, I shall leave it at that. Please read it if you want to be informed.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sharondblk

    Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this review copy of Blackface by Ayanna Thompson, another in the Object Lessons Series. I love Object Lessons, a series where the author deep dives in one topic, in a scholarly way while still being a bit personal. I requested this one because I know that blackface is wrong, but I didn't quite know why. I don't mean just dressing up a generic Black person, I mean darkening the skin to dress up as a specific person - possibly in respectful homage. And now Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this review copy of Blackface by Ayanna Thompson, another in the Object Lessons Series. I love Object Lessons, a series where the author deep dives in one topic, in a scholarly way while still being a bit personal. I requested this one because I know that blackface is wrong, but I didn't quite know why. I don't mean just dressing up a generic Black person, I mean darkening the skin to dress up as a specific person - possibly in respectful homage. And now I know. It's a well written, focussed book that somehow tackles this topic from a wider perspective than simply racism.Not that racism is ever simple, but there is more to it than that. This simple book enlarged my understanding of an interesting, if fraught, issue.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Another excellent addition to the Object Lessons series, this time about Blackface, its history, significance and cultural context – something I’d paid little attention to before, thinking it was merely something to do with minstrelsy and now totally politically incorrect and outdated. But this book explains how it is still pervasive in an insidious way and has most definitely not disappeared from our contemporary world. Illuminating, entertaining and thought-provoking, the book raised my awaren Another excellent addition to the Object Lessons series, this time about Blackface, its history, significance and cultural context – something I’d paid little attention to before, thinking it was merely something to do with minstrelsy and now totally politically incorrect and outdated. But this book explains how it is still pervasive in an insidious way and has most definitely not disappeared from our contemporary world. Illuminating, entertaining and thought-provoking, the book raised my awareness of the subject significantly. I just wished the author hadn’t been quite so keen on scattering the text with exclamation marks…..

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate Henderson

    This book was fascinating. As a white woman the idea of 'blackface' is something I was familiar with due to the pinbages on the Rowntrees jars. Other than that I wasn't fully aware of the context of blackface. I was shocked to discover that white actors/presenters/comedians/influencers are STILL 'blacking-up' in 2020!! Whaaaat???!! I was reading this book shocked! Shocked that this was still happening, and shocked that I was completely unaware of it happening. I wish this book was longer and mor This book was fascinating. As a white woman the idea of 'blackface' is something I was familiar with due to the pinbages on the Rowntrees jars. Other than that I wasn't fully aware of the context of blackface. I was shocked to discover that white actors/presenters/comedians/influencers are STILL 'blacking-up' in 2020!! Whaaaat???!! I was reading this book shocked! Shocked that this was still happening, and shocked that I was completely unaware of it happening. I wish this book was longer and more in depth - but because of it being so short and concise it was very easy to read and understand. The only reason I didn't give this book the full 5* was I found it a bit repetitive.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Verity Halliday

    Blackface is a thought-provoking short read about the history and cultural context of blackface, i.e. the use of make up and racial prostheses by (usually) white people to portray people of colour. If you've ever wondered why people get so angry and upset when a celebrity is found to have worn blackface for a fancy dress party a decade ago, this book will explain why. Recommended, especially for the white innocents amongst us. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing a review co Blackface is a thought-provoking short read about the history and cultural context of blackface, i.e. the use of make up and racial prostheses by (usually) white people to portray people of colour. If you've ever wondered why people get so angry and upset when a celebrity is found to have worn blackface for a fancy dress party a decade ago, this book will explain why. Recommended, especially for the white innocents amongst us. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Dr. Thompson takes us through Shakespeare, 19th- and 20th-century minstrelsy, and current "edgy" comedy and traces the connections between blackface onstage and onscreen and performances of blackness by, for example, white governors, prime ministers, students of all ages, and Instagram influencers. This is a thought-provoking overview of blackface performance and the "consistent exculpating fiction" of white innocence. Dr. Thompson takes us through Shakespeare, 19th- and 20th-century minstrelsy, and current "edgy" comedy and traces the connections between blackface onstage and onscreen and performances of blackness by, for example, white governors, prime ministers, students of all ages, and Instagram influencers. This is a thought-provoking overview of blackface performance and the "consistent exculpating fiction" of white innocence.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    Blackface by Ayanna Thompson is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late March. The what, the why, and the implications of blackface and (to a lesser extent) whiteface on the future of acting and racial empowerment - I personally experienced a whole lot of stomach-turning discomfort towards the contents of this book, so cheers completely to the author for researching so deeply into this topic and offering commentary and critique on specific situations.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Not many histories are as succinct and well-researched within the same package. I learned this title belongs to a series of microhistories published by academics well-suited to the respective topics. I truly enjoyed learning about the history of blackface throughout Western entertainment history and how if still affects certain aspects of today’s well-known media production like Tyler Perry Studios. This is a great book for those readers, likely non-POC, who want to know about blackface and how Not many histories are as succinct and well-researched within the same package. I learned this title belongs to a series of microhistories published by academics well-suited to the respective topics. I truly enjoyed learning about the history of blackface throughout Western entertainment history and how if still affects certain aspects of today’s well-known media production like Tyler Perry Studios. This is a great book for those readers, likely non-POC, who want to know about blackface and how it impacts our society, but lack the time to fully immerse themselves in a research project. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nicole (book.quill)

    A great little intro to the history of Black minstrel shows. It covers a fairly chronological history, pulling lots of supporting info and reading like a dissertation, to deliver an introductory piece of engrained racism

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Clear and well-researched study on Blackface, a timely book on a tradition which still sadly insinuates society and one I only had a limited background of knowledge to. There were some shifts in tone throughout the book, shifting from more dry histories to a more sarky style which didn't always work for me. Found Thompson's argument regarding "white innocence" particularly compelling and these sections were strongest in the book. Clear and well-researched study on Blackface, a timely book on a tradition which still sadly insinuates society and one I only had a limited background of knowledge to. There were some shifts in tone throughout the book, shifting from more dry histories to a more sarky style which didn't always work for me. Found Thompson's argument regarding "white innocence" particularly compelling and these sections were strongest in the book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    I'm a firm believer that if you're really going to discuss a subject you need to know more than one or two things about it. (And personally as a classic movie fan this is a topic that does come up every so often.) This books gives more than everything you should know, from the then and now to everything in between, going as far back as it's historical origins. I'm a firm believer that if you're really going to discuss a subject you need to know more than one or two things about it. (And personally as a classic movie fan this is a topic that does come up every so often.) This books gives more than everything you should know, from the then and now to everything in between, going as far back as it's historical origins.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Judy Gail Krasnow

  28. 4 out of 5

    Vicky

  29. 5 out of 5

    Peter Keough

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris

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