Nell Irvin Painter

American historian

Nell Irvin Painter (born Nell Elizabeth Irvin August 2, 1942) is an American historian.

Nell Irvin Painter (2009)


  • This was a new definition. I think there's room in our culture for interesting people who are black and for interesting people who are female and interesting people who are black and female. There's hardly any room to be interesting if you're old.
  • It hasn't come together finally. There's no end to this, and it changes over time. My relationship with history as I used to write it, and as I sometimes use it in my work — that was something that took several years, actually, for me to feel comfortable with. And as I continued to wrestle with it and to deal with it visually, it's that I can do whatever I want to the figure; I can do whatever I want with history…
  • Our search for understanding in matters of race automatically inclines us toward blackness.
    • "What is Whiteness?" New York Times June 20, 2015

Interview with NPR (2010)

  • The whole point of defining races is mostly to put people down, and so those needs change over time.
  • the census keeps counting us by race for purposes of undoing racial harm in the past.
  • We still have slavery in the world today. and two of the areas pinpointed for slavery are Latin America, notably Brazil, and Eastern Asia.
  • before desegregation, before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, all those laws, exclusionary laws, were meant to keep Negroes out.
  • I live in Newark, which was heavily - actually bulldozed in the 1960s in urban renewal. And we think of urban renewal as harming black people, which of course it did, but it also hit some other vulnerable people, and Italian-American neighborhoods also got it.
  • the idea of beauty being white, that is another enlightenment idea, actually, an 18th-century idea by another German, named Winckelmann, who's the father of art history
  • What has changed in the 21st century is that what we think of as class privilege can go a long way in blunting the color phobia
  • just because you say that things in the 21 century are not the same as they were in the 20th century, doesnt mean that you're saying that we're in a post-racial society. We are not in a post-racial society, but things are not like they were in the age of segregation or slavery.
  • we discover through genetics or the genome or through culture, through migration and so forth, anthropology that racist dont exist, biologically, that you can't box people up in little boxes according to race.

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