Richardson Symposium: Racial Masquerade in American Art and Culture

August 1, 2016
Media Fact Sheet

Addthis Share Tools


Richardson Symposium: Racial Masquerade in American Art and Culture

Friday, Nov. 4, and Saturday, Nov. 5


Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium

National Portrait Gallery  

Eighth and F streets N.W.


Throughout American history, different forms of racial masquerade have been used to engage issues of difference and group identity. While this kind of dress up has sometimes been a celebratory act or used by oppressed communities to mock those in power, it has more often been employed in the opposite direction by those in power to dehumanize minorities and reassert existing control over them. In the 19th century, blackface minstrelsy and theatrical stage performance emerged as popular entertainments in the United States and parts of Latin America. In the 20th century, racial masquerade became a regular part of Hollywood film as white actors impersonated Native American and Asian-descended characters through the use of often grotesque makeup and mannerisms. This symposium will bring together scholars and artists who engage these histories in their work. It will also examine contemporary instances of racial masquerade in American culture and the way that such performances of false identity continue to shape the ways that Americans see themselves and others. 

National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story.

The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000. Website: Connect with the museum at Facebook; Instagram; blog; Twitter and YouTube.


# # #


Media Only

Bethany Bentley

(202) 633-8293