Skip to content

Blackface Costumes

At a Smith College Halloween party in 2007, a white Smith first year and her white male guest dressed up in Afros and black face-paint to portray Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. While some students felt the “makeup” was permissible due to the costume subjects, the vast majority of the student body was appalled, particularly Black students and their allies who felt the administration did not adequately discipline the student.

Following the incident, students mobilized to push the Smith administration to implement programs and workshops that would lessen the likelihood of something like this happening again. The administration followed its usual protocol of forming a committee, having a campus-wide meeting, and promising to do better moving forward. The student body was far more acrid in its processing of the event. Smith Confessional predecessor “The Daily Jolt” and Facebook were both alive with student opinions on either side of the issue, some anonymous and some not. Some students suggested that Black students were taking too much offense at the costumes, while others counted this event among the long list of reasons they disliked white people. During a protest against both the party incident and the overall issue of racism on Smith’s campus, Black students filled out signs like the ones below enumerating the reasons they belonged at Smith — regardless of the color of their skin.