Throughout history, portrayals of characters in ‘blackface’ — with white people made up to caricature Black stereotypes — have been used in ways that demean, denigrate, and trivialize people of African descent. Dwan Reece, Curator of Music and Performing Arts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History Culture, offers a detailed history of this practice, and how it is still so harmful when it appears today. Dwandalyn (Dwan) Reece is a musician, scholar and museum professional who is Curator of Music and Performing Arts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History Culture. Responsible for the acquisition, research and interpretation of the museum’s music and performing arts collection, she curated the museum’s permanent exhibition, Musical Crossroads, for which she received the Secretary’s Research Prize in 2017.
Dwan’s other projects include the museum’s three-day Grand Opening Festival, Freedom Sounds: A Community Celebration and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s 2011 Folklife Festival program, Rhythm & Blues: Tell it Like It Is. She serves as chair of the SI pan-institutional group, Smithsonian Music, and is co-curator of the 2019 initiative, the Smithsonian Year of Music.
Other projects include the forthcoming, Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap and a book on the material culture of African American music. A resident of the Washington, DC metropolitan area for the last nineteen years, Dwan’s work at the museum and within her local community focuses on exploring the arts within a social, cultural and historical context. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
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