Blackface Imagery and Its Answers: Stereotyping from the Early Civil Rights Era to the Obama Era

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Proscenium Theater, Performing Arts and Humanities Building
Thulani Davis, Journalist, Playwright and Author

Tracing the cycles of call-and-response to generations of repeated, reworked and “reloaded” visual stereotypes of African Americans from their early days in print, regeneration in movies and new life on the internet, Thulani Davis will discuss how to “read” the images of objects designed to “serve” the viewer, such as common kitchen items depicting black faces, and show black responses to such imagery and how they in turn are recycled into new blackface. A global phenomenon, visual stereotypes have been used to promote colonization, immigration, products of all kinds, and the politics of inequality.

Thulani Davis is an interdisciplinary artist who has written poetry, novels, plays, and screenplays. As described on the poet’s website, Davis’s work in all genres “shares a passionate concern with history, justice, [and] African American life and is marked by the journalist’s eye for the uncovered truth.” Her poetry collections include Playing the Changes (1985) and All the Renegade Ghosts Rise (1978).

Raised in Virginia during the 1950s, Davis wrote a memoir, My Confederate Kinfolk: A Twenty-First Century Freedwoman Discovers Her Roots (2006), that explores her family’s racial history during the Civil War era. In addition to poetry publications, Davis’s writing has appeared inthe New York Times, the Nation, Bomb Magazine, Quarterly Black Review, and Ms.
A Village Voice staff member for over a decade, Davis is an Buddhist minister and the first female recipient of a Grammy Award for liner notes. She is a graduate of Barnard College and has pursued graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and New York University, where she has taught in the Department of Dramatic Writing.


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