Race is a powerful and challenging concept. When, where, and why did conceptions of race come into being? How might learning about its history help us better understand the complex role that race plays in our lives today?

Centuries before the term race came into popular use, people around the world used distinctions like language, dress, class, geography, and religion — in addition to traits like skin color or facial features — to categorize each other. Seeing Race Before Race explores these early expressions of race in medieval and early modern Europe between 1100 and 1800.

On view at the Newberry Library in Chicago through December 30, Seeing Race Before Race is 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.

To learn more, visit newberry.org.

About the Newberry Library
The Newberry Library is an independent research library located in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood that has been free and open to all since 1887. The Newberry fosters a deeper understanding of our world by inspiring research and learning in the humanities and encouraging conversations about ideas that matter to diverse audiences. Our mission is rooted in a growing and accessible collection of rare and historical materials that spans more than six centuries of human experience.

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