Event—Public Programming

Understanding Race: Past and Present

Renowned scholars Olivette Otele and Noémie Ndiaye will discuss the state of race making through a transnational perspective.

Olivette Otele and Noémie Ndiaye

This program will be held in-person at the Newberry and livestreamed on Zoom. The online version of this event will be live captioned. Please register below.

Our public programming for the Seeing Race Before Race exhibition kicks off with a compelling conversation with world-renowned historian Olivette Otele, author of the groundbreaking and award-winning book, African Europeans: An Untold History. Professor Noémie Ndiaye will join Dr. Otele to discuss the state of race making today and its pre-1800 roots from a transnational perspective, a valuable lens that is rare in the field. They will also unpack the stakes of the exhibition and consider what examining and reassessing premodern race making might offer us intellectually, socially, and politically.

This program is being held in conjunction with the Newberry exhibition Seeing Race Before Race, generously supported by the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and Pam and Doug Walter.

You can purchase a copy of the exhibition catalog, Seeing Race Before Race: Visual Culture and the Racial Matrix in the Premodern World, from the Newberry Bookshop.


Olivette Otele is Distinguished Professor of the Legacies and Memory of Slavery at SOAS, University of London, and a former Vice-President of the Royal Historical Society. She is an expert on the history of people of African descent and the links between memory, geopolitics, and legacies of French and British colonialism. Dr. Otele is the first Black woman appointed to a professorial chair in history in the United Kingdom, and her writing has appeared in the Guardian, BBC Extra, and Times Higher Education. She is co-editor of the volume Post-Conflict Memorialization: Missing Memorials, Absent Bodies.

Noémie Ndiaye is Associate Professor of English at the University of Chicago. Her first monograph Scripts of Blackness: Early Modern Performance Culture and the Making of Race shows how performance culture helped strategically turn blackness into a racial category across early modern Western Europe. She is the co-editor with Lia Markey of Seeing Race Before Race: Visual Culture and the Racial Matrix in the Premodern World, which explores the deployment of racial thinking and racial formations in the visual culture of the world from 1300 to 1800.

Cost and Registration

This program is free and open to all. Advance registration required.

In-Person Registration

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Past Public Programs

Check out video recordings of past Newberry public programs on our YouTube channel.



Seeing Race Before Race

Sep 08–Dec 30, 2023

Explore the roots of race from the Middle Ages to 1800.

Learn More

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