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Faculty in the Press: Professor Knight on the Use of Blackface in Hollywood

In her article, “A Brief Guide to 21st-Century Blackface,” published on September 25th, New York Times writer Aisha Harris explores numerous cases in which Hollywood has utilized blackface and what the implications have been of showing this dehumanizing practice. In contemplating whether some instances are to be regarded as blackface or not, she quotes American Studies’ Professor Arthur Knight saying, “In his book ‘Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film,’ Arthur Knight describes how when blackface appeared in Hollywood movies such as ‘The Jazz Singer’ and ‘Holiday Inn,’ the transformation was part of the appeal for audiences. Whether it was shown as a process or an ‘abrupt cut,’ the shift from whiteness into blackface ‘is a crucial generic marker of the blackface film,’ he writes.” To view the article on the New York Times’ website, click here. For more information on Professor Knight’s writing, click here.