Ayanna Thompson: Blackface (Object Lessons)

A limited number of free tickets are available. You can also support Changing Hands by purchasing the book via Eventbrite below, or by contributing what you can. A suggested contribution of $10 or $20—whatever you can afford—will help keep our virtual event series sustainable and accessible to all. Thank you!

You'll receive the Zoom link by email within 24 hours of the event's start time. For information about participating in virtual events, see our FAQ page.

Author and ASU professor Ayanna Thompson discusses her new book, Blackface, in conversation with Steven Beschloss. 

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.

*Our Zoom events are password-protected with wait rooms enabled. The password is entered automatically by clicking the event link when logged in to a Zoom account. We'll admit guests shortly before 6PM and throughout the event. If you join late, please be patient—we'll admit you when we see you.

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 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

Steven Beschloss is an award-winning writer, editor, journalist and filmmaker. He is a professor of practice at the Cronkite School, a senior director for narrative development with media relations and the ASU President’s Office, and leader of a narrative storytelling initiative across the university. His articles and essays on economics and politics, urban and international affairs, art, culture and education—from the U.S. and Europe—have been published by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New Republic, Smithsonian, The Economist/Economist Intelligence Unit, National Geographic Traveler and dozens of other print and online outlets. Beschloss has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, selected Journalist of the Year in Virginia and honored for his magazine writing by the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He has been a featured guest on MSNBC, Fox Business and NPR, and recently quoted on politics and culture by the BBC, Time, The Guardian and USA Today, among others.