black·​face | \ ˈblak-ˌfās How to pronounce blackface (audio) \

Definition of blackface

: dark makeup worn (as by a performer in a minstrel show) in a caricature of the appearance of a black person also : a performer wearing such makeup

Note: The wearing of blackface by white performers was, from the early 19th through the mid-20th centuries, a prominent feature of minstrel shows and similar forms of entertainment featuring exaggerated and inaccurate caricatures of black people. Its modern occurrence in imitation of such performers is considered deeply offensive.

Examples of blackface in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Here was a stage full of brilliant actors writhing around in cat wigs and face paint, singing psychotic Andrew Lloyd Webber songs with T. S. Eliot blackface lyrics. Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker, "The Improbable Insanity of “Cats”," 16 Dec. 2019 Worley said did not speak out about the incident partly because Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, had admitted to wearing blackface as a young man. Mike Cason |, al, "Race for Alabama Democratic chair: 4 candidates, 2 dates," 29 Oct. 2019 At the start of an election campaign, in which Justin Trudeau hopes to win another four years in power, no fewer than three images of him wearing blackface as a younger man have surfaced. The Economist, "Blackface images threaten Justin Trudeau’s re-election," 20 Sep. 2019 More than just an appalling vestige of the past, Field argues, minstrelsy is the predominant trait of early American cinema in the late 1800s and early 1900s — even if blackface isn’t part of the visual language. Nina Metz,, "How America’s earliest films were based in minstrelsy," 19 June 2019 Governor Ralph Northam held a news conference February 2, 2019, to address the discovery of a photograph from his school yearbook page showing a a man wearing blackface next to another in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Mark Hemingway, WSJ, "How Virginia’s Top Democrats Survived a Storm of Scandal," 10 May 2019 And there is never a situation, like admiring a famous black person, where wearing blackface is even close to appropriate. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Megyn Kelly Wonders What's Wrong With Wearing Blackface on Halloween," 23 Oct. 2018 Famed American ballet dancer Misty Copeland is calling out Russia's Bolshoi Ballet for wearing blackface in some performances instead of hiring dancers of color. Petra Cahill, NBC News, "Trump impeachment, "Star Wars" expectations and what's a snow squall?: The Morning Rundown," 19 Dec. 2019 The second, which doesn't make it on screen, is the woman who would end up leaving Fox News for rival network NBC and later fired for her on-air comments defending blackface that continue to face harsh criticism today. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "Is Megyn Kelly a Feminist or What?," 12 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'blackface.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of blackface

1847, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of blackface was in 1847

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Last Updated

12 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Blackface.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on blackface

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with blackface Encyclopedia article about blackface

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to insert between existing elements

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