“Othello Was My Grandfather”: Race and Shakespeare in the African Diaspora

Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 6:00 p.m.

Kim Hall, Barnard College

Othello

Ira Aldridge (1807–1867) as Othello

This talk explores connections between Shakespeare and freedom dreams in the African Diaspora. It first outlines a tension between the ways that “Shakespeare” and blackness have been valued in the 400 years since Shakespeare’s birth. It then gives examples of the ways that black writers and actors in the early twentieth century used Shakespeare when grappling with constructions of blackness and race in the United States.

Kim F. Hall is the Lucyle Hook Chair of English and a Professor of Africana Studies at Barnard College. Her groundbreaking book, Things of Darkness (1996) on racial discourses in sixteenth and seventeenth century Britain helped generate a new wave of scholarship on race in Shakespeare and Renaissance/early modern texts. Her second book, Othello: Texts and Contexts (2006) provided readers with visual and verbal textual materials to help illuminate important themes in Shakespeare’s tragedy of obsession, jealousy, and betrayal. She has led several online projects, including Barnard’s former Middle Passage Initiative and the Digital Shange Project. She is a past chair of the Shakespeare division of the Modern Language Association and a former trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America. This spring, as the John G. Medlin, Jr. Fellow at the National Humanities Center, she is working on her new book, “Othello Was My Grandfather”: Race and Shakespeare in the African Diaspora.