Long before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got in trouble for wearing blackface, lots of politicians from all walks of life were caught in similar situations.
Blackface dates to nearly 200 years, when white performers darkened their faces with polish to mock enslaved Africans in minstrel shows. These displays depicted black people as lazy, ignorant, cowardly or hypersexual. It was racist and offensive then and still is today.
A lot of regular people have made headlines for blackface – too many to name – so we’ll focus on the ones involving lawmakers.
- In Virginia, Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to appearing in blackface at a 1980 party from his years at University of Virginia.
- Also in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam said he dressed up in blackface to mimic Michael Jackson in a 1980s dance contest.
- Robbie Gattie, who was a Louisiana House of Representatives candidate, painted his face black and dressed like Tiger Woods for a church event.
- South Carolina county council candidate Brant Tomlinson dressed like a Jamaican bobsledder for a Halloween party.
- Former Florida Secretary of State Mike Ertel posed as a Hurricane Katrina victim at a Halloween party.
- Illinois state Senate candidate Hal Patton dressed up as a black football player.
- Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini dressed up as his best friend.
- New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind dressed like a “black basketball player” for a Jewish holiday.
- The police department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, apologized after a yearbook photo showed two police officers dressed in blackface as part of an undercover operation.
Blackface depictions are not always limited to the United States and Canada.
We will continue to update this list because, unfortunately, this will very likely keep happening.