On Hermione Being Black

I’m going to start off this post by asking everyone to please be an adult about this issue and if you are going to get angry with me about it at least do me the decency of reading the full post before commenting. I just wanted to take a moment and add my opinion to the many many others about Hermione being black. This has been a thing going on for a long time but I think has recently come back with the photos that were released of Noma Dumezweni who plays Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Now I’m going to start straight off here and say when I think of Hermione I think of her being white. And now here is the thing, when you read a book, you get an image in your head of what that character looks like. When you read the book before seeing the movie adaptation that image you have won’t always line up with the person who plays that role. I’m sure we have all seen some person or another complain about the particular casting in a role (Katniss Everdeen being one that comes to mind).

This phenomena resulted in my having an argument with my sister a number of years ago because I saw someone who looked exactly like what I would expect Severus Snape to look. He didn’t look like an old Alan Rickman but he looked exactly like an old version of my imagined Severus Snape.

I first read Harry Potter when I was 8. And at that time I assumed Hermione was white. I mean she lived in Britain so I just assumed she looked like me. While reading the rest of the series I had never come across anything that stated she was anything else but white. JK Rowling never actually specifically says what colour her skin is, in fact I don’t think she states that for most of the characters, Kingsley Shacklebolt being the only one (I think) that she says is black.

I have no problems with Hermione being black, and especially when it comes to theatre the actor doesn’t have to look like the character they are playing. But for the last 15 years I have always seen Hermione as being white and it’s going to take some time to get used to the idea that Hermione doesn’t look the way I had imagined her.

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33 thoughts on “On Hermione Being Black

  1. Meh. Fictional characters are easy for me to reimagine. I have never got my knickers in a twist about casting for movie adaptations because its fiction. What I would strugggle with is a biopic that changes the subjects race e.g. a white actor playing Martin Luther King or a black actor playing JFK. Fiction is fiction – heck sometimes all the men in books I am reading will look like whoever my current man crush is despite detailed descriptions by the author. I guess you dont have change how you think of Hermione because one expression of the fiction chose a wonderfully talented black actor. I would lave to see this play as Ms Rowlin was involved in all aspects – she created Hermione so I’m sure the actor she entrusted does an amzing job of it.

    1. I think the problem I have is that I have a very clear image in my head of what Hermione looks like so it’s a little weird trying to get used to a different Hermione.

  2. I usually prefer the characters in movies to look exactly or close to how I imagine them. I know that’s impossible, but it’s what I prefer. I don’t mind that Hermione is Black as long as the role is played well. I don’t think many people imagined her as Black. I’m Black and I sure didn’t. No descriptions were included to indicate that and, as you’ve mentioned, there were some characters that Rowling said are Black in the text, like Shacklebolt and also Angela Johnson and Dean Thomas in the US books (I don’t know if that’s the same for UK).
    I find it annoying when she adds stuff after the books have already been published, stuff that were not even hinted at in the books, like Dumbledore being gay. Why not just included that in the book instead of saying so after?

    1. I’m not sure how I feel about JK adding more to the world after the fact. I understand why people wouldn’t like it, but I’ve been a fan of HP for so long I just want to know as much about the world as I can.

      As for the Dumbledore thing I think she didn’t mention it because the story is told from Harry’s pov and it wouldn’t make any difference to the story if Harry knew Dumbledore was gay. The thing I loved about the books was that the tiniest little details ended up being important to the story. Like the snitch from Harry’s first quidditch game. Or in book 2 there is a little bit about Fred and George stuffing someone in a cabinet which ended up being a really important part of book 6.

      1. Yea, I like that about the books too. It makes rereading them fun because I notice something new I missed that ties in with a later book.

  3. You’ll know better than I but wasn’t there a character in the film who was black until Rowling stated in a later book she was white, the film bosses took the decision to then recast the role for a white actress. Nobody kicked off about that, probably because she was such a minor character at the beginning that nobody noticed. In this case if the woman is talented actress there is no reason for her not to play Hermione. It’s all about interpretation and a good actor will make the audience believe that they are the character…people kick off about the most stupid of things.

  4. It’s good that you shared your opinion on this topic because I had no idea that it was going to happen. I like the fact that you are open to the change of hermione because it shows that you are invested in the character but not too invested. You trust that the changes will do justice to the character of hermione.

  5. I completely agree, I always imagined Hermione as being white but I’m so excited to see diversity being welcomed – as you say, race is never specified! xx

  6. I haven’t read any of the Harry Potter books (yes, that is possible), but I can say that when reading a book, the readers tend to view the characters as an extension of themselves. Therefore, unless specifically described by the author, the “good” characters will be whatever skin color the reader is, and the “bad” characters will probably be some other skin color. I think this is true of reader, whether black, white, brown, yellow, green or purple.

    1. You haven’t read Harry Potter?!?!?! Nah thats fine. But yes, I do think if there is a character you can relate to you just assume their skin colour matches your own.

  7. I always thought Hermione was white as well. But then again, it was never explicitly said, unlike Ron. So she could have been black to begin with.

  8. I agree with you and those who have read all the HArry Potter collection will surely remember that HErmione is described as being red haired! Only white people can be ginger, this is not racism but people for heavens sake, we can be multicultural without ruining a book!

      1. Is that so? Well I’ve read the books too many years ago but I was pretty sure she said hermione was ginger too, well probably age is messing out my memory 😜

    1. She isn’t actually described as ginger. But even if she was, being ginger isn’t a white only thing. People of colour can be ginger too.

  9. I fail to see why it’s so shocking that’s she’s black – perhaps it shows how our racist world works – where assume everybody is white. PS there are lots of black people on the Uk

  10. I still don’t get it…is it because her name is Hermione??? (Are names supposed to be race-specific?) Ok…she lives in Britain (defo don’t get that bit). I live in Britain…I’m black. I’m trying to get it…but still don’t. Thank you for posting though…

    1. I think you get a lot of people who assume that since she is British she must be white. You also get some people who think because she is shown as white on the book covers she must be. But JK never actually stated what colour her skin is.

  11. I always found Hermiones story interesting because she encounters a lot of hatred due to her parentage and not being from a magical family. She also has a keen sense of justice and she sides with the underdog. What strikes me most about her is her ambition to be free and to get others to wake up to the world around them. It makes sense that a person like Hermione then fits with many young black women in the UK who also face prejudice and are often dismissed.

    There is some theory around the impact race in the media has on us, women are a minority in screen writing, producing, casting, acting etc. Women who are not white are even less represented. If you think how many people in the UK are not white British and look at how British books and films feature an overwhelmingly white cast of characters; this suggests that young black women’s stories are not being told.

    When a group is excluded from storytelling/media/art, it is termed cultural annihilation. If you don’t see people in your community telling your stories, you are robbed of the chance to dream of what is possible. You need to see it there in books and films to know you can be it. J K Rowling has a gift for creating worlds where excluded people feel made real.

    If the assumption is that every Hogwarts character is white unless specifically stated otherwise, then that reflects how narrow our culture is. To some degree, it’s a natural reflex to assume fictional characters we relate to are like us. But if we can only relate to white characters, that could end up contributing to a racist and more narrow media.

    The good news is, we are able to support diverse media and affirm that this kind of casting is welcome.

  12. I’ve now seen Cursed Child and while Noma Dunmezweni (I hope I’ve got the spelling right) doesn’t look like my idea of Hermione; Like so many others I always saw Hermione as being like me as I could relate to her especially as I am an overachiever who has very frizzy bushy hair, she absolutely sounds like Hermione to me. The voice, the intonation, mannerisms etc were spot on. For the duration of the play I 100% believed in her but when I read I go back to the image in my head – which isn’t Emma Watson either.

  13. I always saw hermione as white too but the announcement didn’t surprise me at all. Over the years I’ve seen some amazing fan art of her being black and it fits just as well. Surprisingly I was a lot more annoyed at who they cast as the young James potter in the flashbacks in the film because he was not what I pictured lol.
    I’m jealous that you are getting to see the cursed child.

    1. I’m going to see it so soon and I’m starting to panic cause the tickets haven’t arrived yet! I wasn’t so bothered about the casting for James but the person who they cast for Lily had different coloured eyes to DanRad which was quite annoying considering it’s kinda important.

      1. How long have you got? I’m sure they’ll arrive. But even if they don’t the confirmation email should be enough if you let them know. Ive had tickets show up the day before something before.
        I guess I always thought Dan had the wrong eyes rather than who they cast for lily.

        1. Its around two weeks so they should be arriving soon. But I got one email saying to call if they haven’t arrived two weeks before and another saying they won’t be sent out till two weeks before. And then I had a whole other problem with the confirmation email because the pre-sale was so busy. I only got a proper confirmation of the booking in Feb! But yeah everything should be fine.

          I’m sure I read somewhere that they tried to get Dan to wear green contact lenses but it wasn’t going to work for some reason.

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