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The Virginia State Capitol, Richmond. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

The cover of today's WashPost Outlook section features a thoroughly convincing — and therefore appalling — history of how intertwined blackface was with a century of American culture.

"Minstrel shows were seen as all-American entertainment — more recently than you think," writes Rhae Lynn Barnes, an assistant professor of American cultural history at Princeton University, and author of the forthcoming book "Darkology: When the American Dream Wore Blackface."

  • Barnes "spent a decade poring over blackface composites from yearbooks and fraternal orders, watching cracked film footage, and cataloguing more than 10,000 blackface plays — collecting and preserving discarded programs, scrapbooks, photographs and blackface how-to guides from library sales, antique auctions and abandoned boxes outside foreclosed homes."

Barnes writes that the prevalence of blackface extended to the Gridiron Club, which today remains a prestigious organization of top Washington journalists, known for its annual dinner featuring musical skits that singe the powerful:

"One of clearest examples of the relationship between American politicians and amateur blackface is the annual Gridiron Dinner in Washington, which a century ago might as well have been called the annual White House minstrel show. At the Gridiron Club, Theodore Roosevelt beamed when Lew Dockstader, an Elks minstrel celebrity, shuffled onstage in blackface impersonating an African American from Tuskegee University."
"Newly inaugurated President William Howard Taft took his front-row seat in 1909 at what one newspaper hailed as America’s 'national minstrel show' ... Perhaps the most disturbing show was in 1921, when President Warren G. Harding and the Cabinet got an 'unexpected thrill when a Ku Klux Klan demonstration took place' during the dinner, as the Baltimore Sun reported it."
"A 'group of clansmen in hooded garb, riding hobby horses, rushed upon the scene. Out went the lights, leaving only a spotlight to illuminate the ghostly visitation.' They impersonated a raid. They 'seized and dragged the two shivering victims to the front' to mock interrogate them onstage."

Obviously worthy of your time.

Go deeper

Rep. Rice demands Cuomo resign after 3rd woman accuses him of misconduct

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February news conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) on Monday evening called for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign, after a third woman accused him of inappropriate behavior.

Driving the news: Anna Ruch, a former member of the Obama administration and the 2020 Biden campaign, told the New York Times Monday that Cuomo asked to kiss her at a New York City wedding reception in September 2019.

Scoop: Inside the GOP's plan to retake the House

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Republicans will reclaim their majority in 2022 by offering candidates who are women, minorities or veterans, a memo obtained by Axios says.

Why it matters: The document, drafted by a super PAC blessed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, names top Democrats to target — Jared Golden of Maine, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Ron Kind of Wisconsin — and the type of Republican candidates to beat them.

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Scoop: Trump talked out of early Ohio endorsement

Jane Timken at a 2017 Trump rally. Photo: Kyle Mazza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Donald Trump had to be talked out of making an early endorsement in Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race, a sign of his eagerness to reengage politically, people familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

What we're hearing: The former president discussed endorsing former state GOP chair Jane Timken last week during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, but top advisers — including Donald Trump Jr. — urged him to wait.