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WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

One of them is not like the others (not the guy with no hat).


Kida: His name's Simon. He's a Russian of African descent. He works as a tout for a Russian sushi shop here.
Mikado: ... I'm sorry, but there are just so many things wrong with what you just said...

Durarara!! (pilot episode)

This trope comes into play when an actor is cast for a role in a historical setting who would appear to be of the wrong ethnicity to portray such a role, either because of racism in that period or because there simply were very few members of such ethnicity in the area at the time.

This is especially likely to happen when the writers don't know the actual ethnicities available, when they are aiming at a color-blind cast at all costs, budget costs or a myriad other reasons.

Depending on the time and place, this can actually be realistic. While other races were often rare and always a bit of a curiosity throughout history, racism as we know it only really caught on with the expansion of the slave trade. You can see this in works such as Othello, where there is some discussion of Othello's race but for the most part he's one of the most respected men in Venice; you just wouldn't want your daughter to marry him.

It is possible that when a Black Viking appears in film or TV, the character is not intended to be seen as the same race as the actor. The actor used might have simply been the best available for the role, and the writers are merely asking us to use our imagination to make the actor's physical appearance fit the character's. (This is actually standard doctrine for modern theatrical productions.) Whiteface would of course be unthinkable.

Named for 1978's The Norseman, starring Lee Majors, costarring the greatest pass rusher in NFL history, African-American Deacon Jones.

Subtrope of Politically-Correct History. See also Not Even Bothering with the Accent, Race Lift.

Examples of Black Vikings include:


  • A 1995-200? multimedia ad campaign for Three Musketeers candy bars portrayed the Musketeers in claymation and comic book art. One of the Musketeers was black. Later commercials replaced the short white Musketeer with a short latino. Interestingly, Alexandre Dumas himself was one-quarter black, so maybe the commercial creators were paying him the ultimate tribute.
  • André 3000 in the 2012 Gillette commercials "Masters of Style". He describes how he feels about various forms of facial hair, near the end he mentions a long beard makes him feel like a Viking.

Anime and Manga

  • Sakura Taisen V features an African-American female lawyer in the The Roaring Twenties; while college-educated black professionals were far from unheard of since the early 1900s, what's odd is that this character never has to fight prejudice or racism in the series (which instead would have been likely). Even for an Alternate History, this is just stretching it a bit.
  • Hilariously happens, as quoted above in Durarara!!; Semyon Brezhnev, better known as Simonis a 7 foot tall black Russian sushi tout in Ikebukuro. In the Russian sushi shop. While definitely not impossible (Pushkin's great-grandfather, for example, was an African who came to Russia in the 18th Century), it is a very unlikely situation, mostly because there's simply aren't that many black Russians around. And then there's the fact that most Russian sushi shops are atrocious in the country, so a bunch of Russians successfully selling them in Tokyo is, again, unlikely. Though author seems to know all this and aims at the Rule of Funny. Explained by the fact that Semyon's parents were Americans who moved to Russia.

Comic Books

  • Subverted in an issue of The Sandman featured the immortal Hob Gadling attending a Renaissance fair with his current girlfriend (and making a lot of cutting comments about it.) When Hob asks his girlfriend why she isn't the Queen of the Fair, she points out her ethnicity (she's black) and the fact that the fair is trying to be at least a little authentic (she specifically says "There were no black Queens of England.") To which Hob immediately replies "Catherine of Aragon. Had she been living in Selma, Alabama in the early 60s, they'd have made her ride at the back of the bus." This statement isn't actually true, as Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII of England and mother of Mary I (Bloody Mary), is alternately recorded as having "golden hair, blue eyes and pale complexion," or, rarely, "auburn hair". Similarly, some accounts have Elizabeth I as blonde, as there are very few trustworthy accounts of the appearance of historical figures this far back. He might be referring to the "just one drop" rule and it has been claimed that Catherine of Aragon had a black (or Moorish) ancestor just a few generations back, presumably Hob would know. Being a former Slaver, he may have keep an ear out about those kind of things. Also keep in mind that from the perspective of the story, what he knows first-hand is more reliable than our history books. Hence the whole point of this trope.
  • Since the 1980's, the Wonder Woman series has featured various non-white Amazons living on Themyscira, despite the island being based heavily on Greek myths and the women all having Greek names (such as Philippus, the black captain of the Royal Guard). This is explained by a retcon establishing that the Greek gods created the Amazons by using the reincarnated souls of various women who had been murdered throughout history, meaning that even the white Amazons might not be ethnically Greek. And of course the Amazons from the Myths weren't Greek either.
  • One of the supporting characters in The Mighty Thor is Hogun the Grim, a Mongolian-looking man amongst a Norse-inspired cast. This is usually explained as him being a foreigner to Asgard.

Films — Animation

  • The Irish monks in The Secret of Kells, and the largest monk in particular takes the concept of "Black Irish" literally—a notion that has some historical fact but mostly because of Moorish refugees from Spain—and the "Black Irish" are actually descended from the native population. And in any case one of the monks is Chinese which is truly unlikely.
    • Justified, however, in that it's actually a Genius Bonus; the whole film is based on How The Irish Saved Civilization, the theory that refugees from all over the Roman world went to Ireland fleeing The Barbarian Horde, so the monks of Ireland at the time would be quite cosmopolitan (in theory; see below). It's a nice theory...
    • The black monk has an African accent, though, and there are Italian, British, and Chinese monks as well.

Films — Live-Action

  • A Kid in King Arthur's Court had black people fully integrated into a Theme Park Version of King Arthur's court with no explanation given whatsoever. Although considering the King Arthur we know is almost certainly a myth, we can excuse the writers for stretching reality a bit, considering that there's no history there to be true to.
  • Moors in the Merry Men of Robin Hood, something introduced with the character of Nasir in ITV's Robin of Sherwood, and subsequently taken-up in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Azeem, and the latest series from The BBC (not to mention Achoo in Men in Tights). The BBC version takes this trend a step further, as there is at least one black character working for the Sheriff, and a black thief is unquestioned when she claims to be the leader of an order of nuns; unlike the Arabic characters, the black characters are portrayed as fully accepted members of medieval English society.
  • In the feature film adaption of Wild Wild West, Will Smith, a black man, is cast as the protagonist, James West, a U.S. Army officer at the start of the film, notwithstanding the fact that at that time in US history there were no black army officers (Wild Wild West is set in 1869; the first black U.S. Army officer, Henry O. Flipper, was commissioned on his graduation from West Point in 1877). This is probably excusable, considering that the movie also features a giant mechanical tarantula.
  • Averted and played straight at the same time in Black Knight. When Martin Lawrence travels to medieval England and becomes a Fish Out of Temporal Water, he is called a "Moor" in a despective tone and runs into conflict a few times because of his skin color. Yet when he arrives at the castle there is a black chambermaid there and nobody seem to care. Somewhat subverted at the end, as it is revealed it was All Just a Dream.
  • In the film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, the character Don Pedro is the Prince of Aragon and played by Denzel Washington. While Spain was occupied for several centuries by the Moors, Medieval Spaniards were nearly obsessed with limpieza de sangre—purity of blood, and the aristocratic class was the worst. It might have been a stylishic choice to make his illegimate brother's deep hatred for him more obvious. Otherwise, this would have to get across by Keanu Reeves's acting ability.
  • Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet features a couple black people among the staff of the castle. Including one woman who was originally a "gentleman" in the play. In Denmark, in the 1600's. The film has a more 1800's style, but that doesn't change much.
  • M*A*S*H, set during the Korean War, featured a black surgeon (the TV show followed suit for a few episodes until the anachronism of the idea was pointed out to the producers). Ultimately M*A*S*H is pretty much a Vietnam War story backdated 20 years anyway. Presumably the producers never bothered to check any sources about the 8055th MASH, the real unit in Korea the movie was based on: they did have a black surgeon on staff.
  • Force 10 From Navarone does its best to avert this trope and use it too. Carl "Apollo Creed" Weathers unknowingly forces his way into the middle of a plane full of commandos flying to Yugoslavia to fight the Nazis. The frustrated commandos immediately point out how much Weathers will stick out in Yugoslavia, complete with a snide comment about a Zulu invasion. When they land, the leader of the native force they join up with is bemused by his appearance to the point of pretending to wipe the blackness off of Weathers' face.
  • The 2011 film Thor has Idris Elba as one of the Norse gods. So pretty much literal there. For extra irony points, he played Heimdall, who is often referred to as "White-god" and "Whitest of the Aesir". Similarly, the character Hogun is played by Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano, though as noted under Comics above the character was visually-Asian to begin with. In the movie, the idea is put forth that the Asgardians aren't really gods but extradimensional beings that the Scandanavians mistook for deities after seeing them battle Frost Giants on Earth. It's also a manner of the Asgardians in the Marvel universe not actually being exactly the same as real-world Aesir mythology.
    • If you examine the religious art of the Vikings, you may note that the symbols of Thor (such as the hammer) have particular prominence. If you look at the movie's Asgardians in that context, it seems that the Vikings liked Thor so much because he looked like them.
  • The 1998 movie adaption of Les Misérables cast black Lennie James as Enjolras.
  • The Julia Roberts film Mona Lisa Smile was criticized for not having a token black among the cast, despite the film being set in a New England College in the 1950's. Part of the problem was a bad line in the auditioning papers, where they wanted girls who were not too tan, to portray the time period accurately. Seeing as it was a real women's college that did have black women in the time period, the supposed ratio would have had about 3 tokens in a crowd of 200.
  • German actor Günther Kaufmann, whose father was an African-American GI, plays one of the Vikings in Wickie und die starken Männer (Wickie and the strong Men), thus making this a very literal example of this trope. Due to heavy Viking make up, Kaufmann's actual ethnicity is hard to tell, though.
  • In one DVD version of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, two of the brothers (Judah and Benjamin) are played by black actors. This is something of a characterization problem, since the two were born to different mothers, according to Genesis. The other ten brothers are pretty much all over the apparent ethnicity map (the twelve had the same father, who had four wives). And Joseph's father Jacob did have concubines who may have been of different ethnicities than his two wives (who were sisters). Jacob having had black sons is not impossible. On the other hand, Benjamin is supposed to be full brother of Joseph. In any case, that particular version is a comedy.
  • In Jesus Christ Superstar, Judas (the Villain Protagonist) is famously black, while Jesus is white. Although a lot has been read into this about demonization and the Civil Rights Movement, it turns out Carl Anderson was simply the best man for the role. Norman Jewison may have also been a bit color blind, being from Canada, where racial tensions are a little different. Regardless, Carl Anderson and Ted Neely (as Jesus) are both excellently cast and turn in virtuoso performances.
  • This might allude to The Robe from the 1950s, where Judas was played by the only middle eastern guy in the cast!
  • In a flashback in Transformers 2, the Fallen is attacked by various native ancient Africans. Among them is a white male.
  • Eartha Kitt as Freya the Norn in Erik the Viking. Her performance is so well done, though, that most people key to the fact that Eartha Kitt is a black woman playing a Norse soothsayer only after the movie is over. The fact that Eartha is Not Too Black also helps a little.
  • The Mummy Trilogy has a few Ancient Egyptian played by white actors—mostly avoided, but Nefertiti and the Pharaoh stand out.
  • The famously controversial 300 film has a lot of Black noblemen and generals in the Persian Empire camp, not to mention the almost-Black God-Emperor Xerxes. As the Persian Empire spanned 3 continents and attracted into service people of various ethnicities including Indians, Ethiopians and Egyptians, there might have been a few of them in the upper crust. Key word — few. Definitely not a majority. As for the King of Kings, his personal appearance was a bit different (most laughably, the actor who played him, Rodrigo Santoro, is a fair-skinned Brazillian). This is the same film that casts a bunch of Northern Europeans as ancient Greeks.
  • There's a whole Friendly Local Chinatown in Gangs of New York, and half the story is set in a Chinese cathouse, which historians were quick to point out the Chinese population was nonexistent at the time.
  • In Hoosiers, the state championship game features the Hickory Huskers playing the "David" role to the "Goliath" South Bend Central Bears. However, South Bend apparently toppled a few giants as well. Look at the South Bend bench and their section of the stands. Racially integrated basketball team, racially integrated cheerleader squad, black head coach(!), and all this happening not in 1960s New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, but in Indiana, in 1952.
  • Played for laughs in Woody Allen's Love and Death, with a shouting black drill sergeant in 1812 Russia.
  • Played for laughs again in Woody Allen's Everything you Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were too Afraid to Ask, with a black sperm standing among all the white sperm about to be ejaculated.

Black Sperm: What am I doing here?

  • In Kingdom of Heaven, one of the knights in the group lead by Liam Neeson's character at the beginning appears to be of African descent. Considering that the group travels to and fro the Middle East at the time of the Crusades, it's not exactly unthinkable.
  • Invoked in-universe in Captain America: The First Avenger when Dugan notices that a POW, is Asian. Dugan asks "Are we taking everyone now?" The Asian man, Jim Morita, flashes his dogtags and says "I'm from Fresno, Ace." Japanese-Americans who were born in the USA were allowed to fight, though they did so in segregated units. The circumstances of the film presumably made Morita's presence in Captain America's unit an exception, though this is never brought up.
  • Queen Latifah as Mama Morton in the movie Chicago. An African-American jail warden in charge of white prisoners in 1920s America? That wouldn't happen. The prison itself is fully integrated and not segregated by race, again, something that would not have happened in the 1920's.
  • In Christopher And His Kind, there is at least one Black man in the gay club Isherwood frequents. Given that this happened in early 1930's Berlin, it is a little jarring, though possible.


  • An urban legend claims that a black man is depicted at the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the back of the American $2 bill. It turns out that the man is Robert Morris, a white financier who later became a Pennsylvania senator. His face appears dark because it is overly shadowed in the bill's picture, which is an engraved copy of a famous painting. In the painting, Morris is unmistakably white.


  • Arthurian literature has featured Moorish knights since Sir Morien in the 13th Century.
  • In the medieval romance King Horn, Saracens invade Suddene (a mythical kingdom in the British Isles). This is probably a Race Lift as the villains act just like Viking conquerors, but by the time the story was written down Vikings had become passe and the Crusades were the new hot topic.
  • The later Sven Hassel novels introduced Stabsgefreiter Albert Mumbuto, a black soldier in the German army of WW 2. However the website Porta's Kitchen mentioned a documentary where several black Germans were interviewed, including at least one soldier.
    • Germany had had an African colonial empire until 1919 so there were a number of African-Germans long after that. This matter surfaces in Istvan Szabo's movie Mephisto, taking place in the 1930s, in which the protagonist, a famous theatre director, has an African-German mistress and therefore gets chastised by an angry Hermann Göring.
    • Even if pretty unexpected for a modern reader, the Nazis held no special grudge against Blacks—Nazi racism towards blacks is well-documented and horrible, but it wasn't as systematic as their main targets.
  • Lampshaded and Justified in Everworld: There are Vikings of all different races because Everworld's Fantasy Counterpart Cultures have a vastly different geography from our world, so that Everworld-Vikings regularly raid Everworld-Aztecs, Everworld-Africans, and apparently Everworld-Asians; this results in many new people entering the Viking society as slaves (who may gain freedom and work their way up) or from mixed marriages between Vikings and captured women. Their king, Olaf Ironfoot, is actually black. And dies early in the second book.
    • The Amazons are described as similarly having children with whatever males they happen to conquer, with the queen, Pretty Little Flower, being notably mixed-race.
  • The Inheritance Cycle has two black characters living in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture that's loosely based on medieval Europe, specifically Norse culture. It's eventually explained that "dark-skinned tribes" live in the desert to the southeast, and possibly the neighboring country - some of these join with the Varden in the third book. Before that, characters do sometimes consider them unusual for the colour of their skin, but they do not act as if it was completely unheard of.
  • Day Watch, the second book in Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch trilogy (of four), has a group of Viking Others- blonde-haired, blue-eyed Teutonic types. Turns out that's just their Twilight forms- they're members of an old Norse cult, but ethnically there's quite a mix. Turns out the fact that there's a black one, a white one, an Asian one and the other one fits some Ragnarok prophecies quite well... Did someone just say "Horsemen of the Apocalypse"? Note though, these are people in modern times who are members of such a cult (Neo Vikings?) rather than Norse people in Dark Ages Europe.
  • A Black Moorish woman prosecuting attorney named Brunhild (!) appears in the eponymous Die Morin, written by German poet Hermann von Sachsenheim in the year 1453. She is supposed to prosecute love cases for the goddess Venus and her lover, King Tannhaeuser (!!), who, according to legend, lived in a subterranean kingdom under some mountain in Germany. Probably Sachsenheim assumed that a servant of Venus was a pagan, and a pagan was a Muslim, and a Muslim was a Moor, and that "Brun-hild" meant "brown-maiden" (instead of "byrnie (=mail-coat)-warrior").
  • Averted in The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell. One of Arthur's lieutenants, Sagramor, is a black Numidian, in stark contrast to the Britons, Gaels and Saxons around him, but this is both acknowledged and justified—he was a former Roman auxiliary who joined Arthur's band after his own unit was dissolved.
  • A Peter David novel about King Arthur in modern times, Knight Life, casts Percival, the Grail Knight, as a Moor. Everyone is totally surprised by this in the novel (and a scholar or two "refutes" it in front of him).
  • Ranec, from Jean M. Auel's The Mammoth Hunters, is a black Cro-Magnon living in Ancient Russia north of the Caspian Sea. Justified by the fact that, in his youth, Ranec's father made a long journey to the region that is now Ethiopia, married a woman there, and returned to Russia with his son after his wife's death.
  • Both played straight and inverted in Michael Chabon's Gentlemen Of The Road, whose protagonists are a black African (probably from Ethiopia or thereabout, where there is a tribe of African Jews called Beth Israel) and a (very) white Eastern Frank, both Jewish, who travelled the world as bandits and mercenaries and ended up in the Caucasus. Both of them draw comments because of their exotic appearance, but mostly because they form an odd, contrasting couple. A band of Russo-Scandinavian raiders are also involved in the story.
  • Sanya, one of the knights of the Cross in The Dresden Files, is a black Russian. He himself notes that he's a rarity, and mentions how he couldn't go into certain rural villages without becoming the town spectacle.

Live-Action TV

  • In the 1997 Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella Cinderella was black (and played by Brandy) her stepmother was white, and the Philipino prince had a black mother and a white father. Very jarring.
  • Doctor Who
    • "The Girl in the Fireplace" has a black noblewoman in the Court of Louis XVI. Some fans have attempted to explain this by pointing out the existence of the Chevalier de Saint Georges, a real eighteenth-century composer and musician known as "the black Mozart", who did in fact perform at Versailles. It's especially jarring considering there is an Orientalist portrait of Madame de Pompadour dressed like a Turkish sultana and being served by a black slave girl—an exotic possession, for crying out loud.[1] Angel Coulby, the actress who played the black noblewoman, appears to be a repeat offender, considering that her biggest role (Gwen on Merlin) is a bit further down on this list.
    • The episode "Human Nature", set in England just before World War One, averts this trope, as one of the students starts saying offensive things to Martha, and John Smith seems to find it utterly believable that Martha might not understand the concept of fiction. Smith's love interest understandably is rather incredulous when Martha claims to be a doctor, remarking that a woman doctor was conceivable but not "one of your colour" as said to Martha's face.
    • The 2008 Christmas special had the Next Doctor have a black female companion, Rosita, in 1851. She gets treated like anyone else in the story except for two brief, almost missable, moments. The first is when the villainess asks whether the Doctor "paid [her] to speak," which could be either a servitude reference or merely an implied suggestion that she thinks Rosita is a prostitute. The second is at the end when they live happily ever after and Jackson Lake makes a comment about her being his son's nursemaid.
    • Averted with Martha's presence in "The Shakespeare Code": Elizabethan England had a large African population - large enough that Elizabeth complained about it on multiple occasions.
    • Isabella and her father from "The Vampires of Venice" are an exception: As a nexus of trade all across the Mediterranean, Venice would have been home to all sorts.
    • Several viewers considered the black Secret Service agent in Richard Nixon's security detail to be this trope. In reality, Nixon really did have at least one black agent.
  • This is all over Mortal Kombat Conquest. While the series is set in ancient China, Kung Lao is the only one of the protagonists who is actually Asian. The rest of the cast is suspiciously multicultural—the only justified one is Raiden, who as a god could conceivably take any form he wished. But then why is he a white guy?
  • In the 2006 series of Robin Hood, one early episode feature Guy of Gisbourne's political scheming against the Sheriff's current Master at Arms. The fact that the Master at Arms is black in 12th century England is never mentioned nor influence the plot. The producers have mentioned that originally there was no intention for the character to be black, but that the actor gave such a damned fine audition and performance that they felt he could pull it off regardless of the fact that that he would seem out of place, and gave him the part as-written, without any changes to make reference to his color. In Season 3, Friar Tuck is black.
  • Merlin has been accused of this; Guinevere is black, as are several courtiers and some of the royal knights. The production team has hand waved this, and apparent anachronisms, by stating in interviews that the show is set in a mythical land that's not intended to be historically accurate. The Arthurian myths are already pretty anachronistic. French chivalry in dark age Britain? Come on...
  • The start of season 2 of Sir Arthur Conan Doyles the Lost World has an episode where several modern people are transported to the plateau. Even though the main characters are from the start of the 20th century, they don't seem to notice that the helicopter pilot is black and treat him like anyone else.
  • NBC's Gulliver's Travels miniseries: In contrast to the lily-white Lilliputians, Brobdingnag is home to many black giants (including Alfre Woodard as the Queen) looking a little out-of-place in 18th century powdered wigs. This is actually consistent with the Utopian nature of the island and probably a way of playing up its superiority to both Lilliput and Gulliver's England.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody had Brenda Song playing an ancestor of London Tipton... during the American Revolutionary War. Hilariously but subtly lampshaded in that she seems to be (or believe that she is) French. Whether it was intentional and she really was supposed to be London's French paternal ancestor, it was intentional and she was absurdly somewhere in London's Thai ancestry, or it was completely unintended, it was completely Handwaved by being All Just a Dream had by Zach. Also, Mr.Mosby, who is black, is seen as a rich man. Most blacks in the revolutionary war were slaves, but it is possible he was a freeman.
  • In The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, set in pre-Christian Ireland, one of the heroes is black—but it's justified by having him come from Atlantis, which, being mythical, can have any ethnic mix it wants.
  • Like The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, the short-lived Roar—which starred Heath Ledger—is also set in pre-Christian Ireland, and also features a black character, Tully, amid Ledger's band of Celtic chieftains. Unlike The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, there's no justification given.
  • The viking helmet Flava Flav wore became grist for the mill in his Comedy Central roast.
  • Both Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess showed black Greeks wandering about their various cities/towns/villages/what-have-you. Knowing the extent of the Mediterranean trade in the Antiquity, there was a slight possibility for Ethiopian, Nubian, or darker-skinned Egyptian people to settle in Greek lands, even more so in port cities, as traders, sailors, mercenaries or former slaves. However, their numbers could not be great. Given that both shows are filmed in New Zealand, whenever they needed "ethnic" mooks (for example, to represent Egyptians), they would usually cast Maori or other Pacific Islanders and hope that audiences percieved them as just being Ambiguously Brown.
  • Suggested but not confirmed in Power Rangers Samurai, as out of five descendants of Japanese samurai, only one is Asian. It's either this trope, or the equally unlikely scenario that the families mingled with other races in just the right way to make a Five-Token Band.
  • On the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Warrior of the Lost World", the guys remark on how the gangs of hats include black Nazis and white ninjas.
  • A sketch on the CBBC show Horrible Histories about Vikings actually featured a Black Viking as an extra. There was also a black pirate on Black Bart's ship.

Myths & Religion

  • Any depiction of Jesus that makes him look Caucasian. Or black. Or even Asian. As the central figure in a religion spanning culture and geography, Jesus is often depicted with more resemblance to the local population then to any historical accuracy. As a Galilean Jew, Jesus mostly likely had a darker olive complexion similar to that of modern Middle East peoples.
  • This also happens with other major figures of The Bible, such as Abraham, Adam and Eve, Moses, David, etc, who look almost exclusively white in European artistic depictions.
  • Andromeda, the Damsel in Distress in the myth about Perseus, is the daughter of the Ethiopian king Cepheus. But in most illustrations, her skin colour is decidedly very un-Ethiopian. (NSFW, if your boss doesn't like nipples!) Although: According to the Tangled Family Tree of the Greek mythological characters, she wasn't ethnically Ethiopian anyway, at least not 100%. (Her father's ancestry can be traced back to Poseidon, but there is no information about where her mother Cassiopeia comes from.) Also, some people speculate that Cepheus' kingdom wasn't that Ethiopia.
    • At several times throughout history, "Ethiopia" meant literally any place in Africa, so it's entirely possible she came from a northern pre-Muslim African nation—the people there would have had skin and hair colors much closer to ancient Greeks, and when one factors in how many mixed marriages there were between the various cultures, it makes more sense. The problem is that there were text describing Andromeda's dark skin. Possibly not black, but not actually until later artists decided not to depict her as such.
  • Due to its syncretic nature and the loas' ability to change shape, the Vodou pantheon is filled with Black Vikings. Some loa like Ogoun and Erzulie Dantor appear as black Africans. Others are caucasian, like Mademoiselle Charlotte and Mama Brigette (who's a foul mouthed Irish redhead). While others are Native American like the Agua Dulce family of loa adopted from the Taino Indians.


  • In the 1999 Broadway revival of The Lion in Winter, African-American actors Laurence Fishburne and Chuma Hunter-Gault were cast as (British) King Henry II and his son Richard Lionheart, respectively. The actors who played Henry's two other sons and his wife were white.

Video Games

  • Averted and lampshaded in Metal Gear Solid. The Mole, while discussing her background, mentions that her Japanese-American grandfather was an FBI agent under Hoover. Although he doesn't say anything about it for several scenes, Master Miller immediately knows she's lying, realizing that the notoriously prejudiced J. Edgar Hoover would never have allowed a man of Japanese descent as an agent.
  • The Nazi GGG Ghostapo organization in BloodRayne has an Asian woman as one of its leaders. Vaguely semi-justified in that she's Tibetan, and the Nazi racial science considered Tibetans to be an Aryan race. Oh, and she's also half vampire, which the GGG seems to consider a plus.
  • Enforced in Resident Evil 5: there are an awful lot of white people in Africa because people complained about Unfortunate Implications with all the Majini being black. Then again, there are an awful lot of white people in Africa if you know where to look.

Web Comics

  • Shebi from Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki is the only dark skinned valkyrie
    • Word of God is that she is an ancient Egyptian who was recruited by the norse gods.
  • Lothar, echidna from Exterminatus Now tried to get a role in a video game. Then tried a scandal when reminded that their notice specifically said a hedgehog is needed. He discovered that video games and martial arts communities do intersect.

Western Animation

  • The Ambiguously Brown Sir Bryant in The Legend of Prince Valiant looks like an example of this at first, until it is explained in a centric episode that he is an exiled Moorish prince that joined King Arthur's knights after arriving in England and suffering quite a few misfortunes there too—among them the assassination of his wife and son by thieves.
  • In one bit on Family Guy, Cleveland plays a Nazi, while trying to fake Quagmire's death. Of course, given that the scene also featured a ninja, an "evil pots and pans robot" and an obviously-fake plastic dinosaur (complete with Jurassic Park theme) that's quite probably a deliberate nod to this trope.
  • The Simpsons
    • Carl portrays explorer William Clark (of course, Lenny is Meriwether Lewis). As an inversion, Lisa portrays Sacajawea.
    • In fact, The Simpsons do something like this quite often, when the story takes place in a historical setting (e.g. Treehouse of Horror stories). It seems that the main criterion is, which of the established characters fits the role best personality- and relationship-wise.

Real Life

  • There was a small group in northern Scandinavia with abnormally high melanin counts. They were wiped out. Vikings who traded down into the Mediterranean also had a term for the dark skinned folk found in North Africa: Bluemen (blue meaning dark). One such joining a group of Vikings would not have been far-fetched, and one ending up a thrall even less so. Of course, thralls often earned their freedom and the respect of the community. Reckoned to be the origin of the "Blue Men of Dublin," a 10th Century Irish-Viking warband.
  • Something else to consider when it comes to this sort of thing is the fact that, at its height, the Roman Empire spanned from the southern borders of Scotland Caledonia to Ethiopia Nubia and from Hispania to Mesopotamia, and had mercantile connections with lands even further spread than that. Given that Roman soldiers were recruited from the local populace, and were sent where they were needed, it is entirely possible for a dark-skinned soldier to have been recruited in (for example) Egypt and then shipped off to Britain. Or for a citizen born in Britain to up and move to (for example), Judea. Some recent research on a BBC documentary suggested that one of the regiments deployed in what's now Northumberland was recruited from Egypt and Syria and may have included black African legionaries as well as those with Mediterranean skin tone. This leads to the slight Mind Screw of "ethnic minorities" having lived in England before the English arrived. Not only that, but they stayed. That means that the Black British population is actually a real-life example of this trope. Could've been that there were black monks at Lindisfarne. We don't know, but it's possible.
    • The "English", though culturally Anglo-Saxon, are still, according to genetic testing, Britons (they're basically indistinguishable from the Welsh), mainly because the Germanic invaders had the numbers to impose their culture, but not to displace the natives. So "the English" have actually been there since whenever the Celts crossed the Channel, in recent prehistory.
  • "Black Irish" and "Black Russians" are famously attested in Real Life. However, there is some argument that they are actually People of Hair Color, since it's claimed that Black Irish are either (a) descended from Moors, or (b) descended from the same stock as Basques. There are Sephardic Irish Jews, but they aren't usually identified as Black Irish.
    • The current scientific theory is the Black Irish are the only (racially) Celtic Irishmen. Other hair colors? Scandinavian—genetically, the Irish are Germanic (and the English are Celtic). One theory holds that the "Tuatha de Danaan" were actually proto-Danes who'd settled in Ireland, and were later conquered by Celts (called "Milesians" in the legends) from Iberia.
  • The "Ivory Bangle Lady"; a high-status black woman who received a lavish burial in 4th century York. The Times states:

Archaeologists have discovered that wealthy black Africans lived in Roman Britain in one of the country's earliest examples of multiculturalism. "Analysis... contradicts assumptions about the make-up of Roman-British populations as well as the view that African immigrants were of low status... The link between slavery and Africans is an early modern one. In the Roman world this simply was not the case. Slaves in Roman times could come from any area." ... African men had immigrated to Britain, invariably with the Roman Army, and had brought their wives and children. "We're looking at a population mix which is much closer to contemporary Britain than previous historians had suspected. In the case of York, the Roman population may have had more diverse origins than the city has now."

  • Population mixing due to trading and warfare has been much more extensive during the last two millennia than popular media would leave us to know. For example, in southern Egypt and northern Sudan live, until our present day, tribes of either Black or Arabic-looking Magyars, thousands of miles away from Hungary... all because the Ottoman Turks recruited a military unit of Magyars in the 16th century to fight in Egypt.
  • The thing is, back in those days, travellers from far-off lands were assumed to be exotic. So they'd be just as fascinated by one foreigner as another, regardless of where they're from; see City of Weirdos.
  • This effect is certainly older than the past two millennia, it's just hard to see clear examples after that long. When the armies of Alexander the Great marched across Central Asia, they buggered everything in sight and left garrisons and deserters in their wake, drawn from every corner of the conquest, but most have disappeared into the population at large since then. But high in the Hindu Kush mountains, there still exist tiny villages of almost pure-ethnic Greeks in isolated valleys, wholly integrated with local culture but still instantly recognizable. Journalists who've encountered them remark that, even 2300 years on, they look like Europeans doing a poor imitation of Afghans.
  • DNA analysis has recently suggested that not one but four or five African and Indian groups may be (as they claim) Lost Tribes of Israel. Besides the famous Ethiopian and Ugandan Jews who got airlifted by Israel in the 70s, a full-blown tribe in Tanzania recently got themselves tested to prove their claim that the tribe itself were a lost tribe of Hebrews, since the Roman era. (Being cut off, they didn't know any other Jews existed, so they adopted local language and customs.) And the Indian group had become a caste claiming Hebrew descent, although they had more contact with the west.
  • DNA analysis of Icelandic people has recently revealed that the Norse may have brought back a native american woman with them to Iceland, well before Columbus. Native American Viking indeed.
  • Yasuke, a black retainer to Nobunaga Oda.
  • In a more recent example, Victorian Britain is portrayed as being completly white, yet Carribean people have been have been living in Britain since slavery was abolished. They are possibly overlooked because many people in power preferred not to mention them at all.
  • African German Hans Hauck was a soldier in the German Wehrmacht during World War Two. There were quite a few African Germans in Nazi Germany, either descended from people from the colonies or the children of black French soldiers from the 1923-25 Occupation of the Ruhr, so called Rhineland bastards. Indeed, as they were considered inferior and not fit for military service, but not a threat like Jews and Slavs, black Germans were more likely to survive the war than ethnic Germans.
  • Due to ancient migrations of Indo-Europeans throughout Eurasia, people with "European" traits can be found in some quite surprising places. Green eyes are very common among some tribes in Afghanistan, the most famous example being Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic. Blue eyes can be found in India. There are blond Iranians, blond Pakistanis, and even blond Mongols. Well, the Mongols did capture and enslave Slavs when they invaded Eastern Europe.
  • The Black Seminoles are a controversial section of the Seminole tribe who are descended from escaped American slaves who sought refuge with the Seminoles in Spanish Florida. Many interbred with the Creek descended natives, while others remain genetically separate. The debate continues today as to whether they count as a true part of the tribe as they have little or no genetic connection, but upwards of two hundred years of cultural connection.
  • Russian poet Alexander Pushkin's great grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal, had been an ennobled Black Russian.
  • General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a Black half-Haitian, became a hero of The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars and sired the more famous Alexandre Dumas pere (who also inherited dark skin and Black features).
  • The Sami people (indigenous, non-Germanic people of Scandinavia), despite being very fair-skinned and usually blond, have a culture extremely similar to that of Inuit and Native Americans. Their genetics suggest an Asian origin.