Investigates what blackface is, why it occurred, and what its legacies are in the 21st century.
A New Statesman essential non-fiction book of 2021Featured in Book Riot's 12 best nonfiction books about Black identity and historyA Times Higher Education Book of the Week2022 Finalist for the Prose Awards (Media and Cultural Studies category) 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.
Examines Hollywood’s painful, enduring ties to racist performances. * Variety *
Sharp … In explicitly laying out the history and costs of blackface performance, [Ayanna Thompson] fully meets her stated aim of offering an accessible book that constitutes part of an ongoing "arc toward justice." * Times Higher Education *
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) *
A truly eye-opening, defiant, must-read. * West End Best Friend *
Wide-ranging and hard-hitting… a passionate, well-informed, and gripping read… another triumph for Object Lessons. * New York Journal of Books *
This is great book, brave and clear, with excellent analyses and memorable arguments and examples. * Aleks Sierz *
For Ayanna Thompson, the Arizona-based author of a new book titled Blackface, understanding the present moment requires exploring the past, including ways systemic racism is rooted and reflected in blackface performance … Drawing examples from popular culture and performance history, Thompson expertly dismantles various defenses of blackface minstrelsy. * City Sun Times *
Crisp and clearly argued. * The Sydney Morning Herald *