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Blackface (Object Lessons)


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Table of Contents

1. Why Write this Book? 2. Megyn Kelly, Justin Trudeau, or [fill in another public figure's name] 3. What is Blackface? 4. Why does Blackface Exist? Because of Uppity Negros, of course! 5. What is the legacy of blackface? The Impact on White Actors 6. What is the legacy of blackface? The Impact on Black Actors 7. Conclusion: I Can't Breathe Index

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Investigates what blackface is, why it occurred, and what its legacies are in the 21st century.

About the Author

Ayanna Thompson is a Regents Professor of English and Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) at Arizona State University, USA. She is the author of Shakespeare in the Theatre: Peter Sellars (Arden Bloomsbury, 2018), Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centred Approach, co-authored with Laura Turchi (Arden Bloomsbury, 2016), Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America (Oxford University Press, 2011), and Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage (Routledge, 2008). She wrote the new introduction for the revised Arden3 Othello (Arden, 2016), and is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race (forthcoming Cambridge University Press, 2021), Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance (Palgrave, 2010), and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance (Routledge, 2006). She is currently collaborating with Curtis Perry on the Arden4 edition of Titus Andronicus. She was the 2018-19 President of the Shakespeare Association of America, and served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Association of Marshall Scholars. She was one of Phi Beta Kappa's Visiting Scholars for 2017-2018.


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 *

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