Ever since Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out, there’s been a spotlight on the entire series and questions and accusations about how inclusive the original books are to people of color. This started in 2016 when the West End production cast actress Noma Dumezweni – an award-winning black actress – to play the role of Hermione Granger-Weasley.
People who have been watching the Harry Potter films since 2001 have always thought Hermione was a white girl. After all, the first eight films starred the white actress Emma Watson to play Hermione Granger. According to those who assert that Hermione had always been white in the books as well, there were scenes in the books where Hermione was described as going white or pale when scared.
This was met with anger from the Harry Potter author herself, J.K. Rowling, who claimed that she didn’t explicitly state that Hermione is canonically white in the books. Aside from her bushy brown hair, large teeth, and shrill voice, J.K. Rowling didn’t really describe the rest of Hermione’s physical appearance. In fact, she had seen fan art that portrays Hermione as a person of color. And if Dumezweni is the best actress for the role, why can’t she play Hermione?
I love Dumezweni’s acting skill and believe she makes a good Hermione regardless of skin color. However, I personally find it hard to believe that J.K. Rowling wrote the book without imagining what race or skin color Hermione had when she wrote the book. Also, in Prisoner of Azkaban, there was a scene in Diagon Alley where Harry noticed Hermione got a tan from her trip to face and looked “very brown.”
What’s also dubious is that, when J.K. Rowling writes black characters in Harry Potter (or for that matter, any person of color), she makes a point to describe them so that they are undoubtedly wizards or witches of color. So, when they did appear in the Harry Potter films as people of color, no one really bat an eye. Here’s a list of some examples of witches and wizards who were described to be a person of color.
““And this is Kingsley Shacklebolt” – he indicated the tall black wizard, who bowed…”
(Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)
Actor: George Harris
Harry first met Kingsley Shacklebolt in 1995. After Harry was given a letter of expulsion from the Ministry of Magic, the Dursleys left Harry locked in his room after receiving a letter inviting them to an awarding ceremony for being short-listed for the “All-England Best-Kept Suburban Lawn Competition.” In reality, that letter was sent to them by Nymphadora Tonks, who, along with Kingsley, was part of the Advance Guard to escort Harry to 12 Grimmauld Place, the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.
As a high-ranking Auror, Kingsley would help the Order by feeding them information about the Ministry. Convinced of Sirius Black’s innocence, as the leader of the task force assigned to recapture Sirius, he would lead Ministry officials and other Aurors on wild goose chases for Black in Tibet. In reality, however, he was very well-aware that Sirius was hiding in Grimmauld Place and would often send him amusing conspiracy articles about Sirius’ whereabouts.
He continued to serve the Order even after the fall of the Ministry of Magic in 1997. He still appeared to work for the Ministry of Magic, but was forced into hiding after he broke the enchantment that detects anyone saying Voldemort’s name and barely escaped Death Eaters that came after him. He remained active in the resistance, urging wizard to help their Muggle neighbors and then joining the fight in the Battle of Hogwarts. After their victory in 1998, he was named Minister of Magic until Hermione succeeded him in 2019.
“Hey, Johnson, what’s with that hairstyle, anyway? Why would anyone want to look like they’ve got worms coming out of their head?”
(Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)
Actresses: Danielle Tabor and Tiana Benjamin
Angelina is described to be a tall and pretty witch with dark skin, brown eyes, and long black hair that was often braided. Aside from her skin, we can tell her race because of an insult Pansy Parkinson threw at her about her hair looking like worms. This could be a reference to cornrows or dreadlocks, something black people are often discriminated for.
Harry first met Angelina Johnson in 1991. She was two years older than him and was a Chaser in the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. She and her friend Alicia Spinnet were the only girls in the team until Ginny Weasley joined.
She was very pretty that Fred Weasley and Lee Jordan expressed interest in her. She went with Fred Weasley to the Yule Ball in 1994. On that same year, Quidditch Captain Oliver Wood graduated and left Hogwarts, appointing Angelina captain. However, due to the Triwizard Tournament taking place, she didn’t get to lead her team until 1995. When she graduated the following year, she turned over the role of captain to Harry.
While she had already left Hogwarts, she remained in contact with Dumbledore’s Army. She returned to Hogwarts in 1998 to join the Battle of Hogwarts along with her Quidditch friends and survived. Eventually, she married George Weasley and named their son after George’s late twin, Fred.
“And now there were only three people left to be sorted. “Thomas, Dean,” a Black boy even taller than Ron, joined Harry at the Gryffindor table.”
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)
Actor: Alfred Enoch
Dean was described as a black male from the first book during the Sorting Hat scene. He was in Harry’s year and was also sorted into Gryffindor. Dean is a half-blood wizard, but because his biological father died before he could tell Dean’s mother the truth about the wizarding world, Dean grew up thinking he was Muggle-born.
In 1995 to 1996, he became romantically involved with Ginny Weasley despite his friend Ron’s disapproval. However, they eventually broke up. He was shocked when Ginny and Harry got together immediately after, breaking a glass when he saw the two of them kissing. However, he did not harbor any ill feelings towards either of them.
In 1997, when Voldemort took control of the Ministry of Magic, Dean could not prove he was half-blood and, to avoid imprisonment by the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, went on the run and skipped his final year at Hogwarts. While hiding, he met with fellow Muggle-borns Ted Tonks, Dirk Cresswell, and goblins Griphook and Gornuk. He was later caught by Snatcheers and sent to Malfoy Manor but was rescued by Dobby and taken to the Shell Cottage to recuperate. In the films, however, none of this was explored in Dean’s story and it was implied he spent the entire year at Hogwarts.
He fought during the Battle of Hogwarts (which is also known as the popular Harry Potter Day) and survived.
“A boy with dreadlocks was surrounded by a small crowd. “Give us a look, Lee, go on…'”
(Harry Potter and the Philosopsher’s Stone)
Actor: Luke Youngblood
Lee Jordan was described as a black boy with dreadlocks, another feature seen on black people. He was a part of the Weasley twins’ year and was good friends with Fred and George Weasley. At one point before his third year, he became the Quidditch commentator, though he was often supervised by Professor McGonagall and was stopped whenever he became biased or critical.
His final year at Hogwarts was not as fun as he would have liked. He and the Weasley brothers had planned to start selling joke products around the school, but were prohibited by Dolores Umbridge. When Fred and George fled the school, he was left behind. This led him to provide less enthusiastic commentary during Quidditch matches, though he would also have fun continuing the twins’ legacy of torturing Umbridge.
In 1997 during the Second Wizarding War, Lee hosted Potterwatch, a radio show created due to all other forms of media being under the control of the Ministry of Magic, which Voldemort was controlling. He spoke under the name “River” (most likely because of the Jordan River). In 1998, he returned to Hogwarts to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts. It’s implied that he survived the battle since his name was not listed among the casualties.
“He recognized a Slytherin from their year, a tall black boy with high cheekbones and long, slanting eyes…
“Now, do you know everyone?” Slughorn asked Harry and Neville. “Blaise Zabini is in your year, of course – “”
(Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
Actor: Louis Cordice
Zabini was a Slytherin who was in Harry’s year. He is the son of a witch known for her beauty and who was widowed seven times with each husband dying from suspicious circumstances and leaving Blaise and his mother with more money wealthier than they were. It’s implied that he inherited his mother’s looks as he was said to be incredibly vain. He was said to usually keep to himself most of the time, though he got along well enough with Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, and Pansy Parkinson. He didn’t make a lot of friends in Slytherin and refused to talk to Muggles, Muggle-borns, and blood traitors.
Zabini was invited to Horace Slughorn’s Slug Club most likely because of his and his mothers’ connections and wealth. This impressed Slughorn, as Zabini continued to receive invitations to Slug Club meetings.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Zabini most likely evacuated the school with fellow Slytherins. In the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, however, Zabini, Crabbe, and Goyle’s roles were interchanged because Jaime Waylett, the actor who played Vincent Crabbe, was sentenced to community service when police officers found him in possession of marijuana and a knife. They later found out that he was growing marijuana in his mother’s house. In the books, it was Crabbe and Goyle who accompanied Malfoy to the Room of Requirement and Crabbe started the Fiendfyre that killed himself (this is one of the reasons why the Deathly Hallows movies’ MPAA rating was higher than the earlier movies); Zabini was nowhere to be found. In the film, Zabini and Goyle accompanied Malfoy, and it was Goyle who created the Fiendfyre.
Parvati and Padma Patil
“”She looked very pretty indeed, in robes of shocking pink, with her long dark plait braided with gold, and gold bracelets glimmering at her wrists.””
(Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
Actresses: Shefali Chowdbury and Sitara Shah (Parvati); Afshan Azad and Sharon Sandhu (Padma)
The Patil twins are witches with Indian heritage who entered Hogwarts in Harry’s year. Parvati was sorted into Gryffindor while her sister, Padma, was sorted into Ravenclaw and later became a Ravenclaw prefect. While Parvati was sometimes seen with her sister, she was more often seen with her best friend and Gryffindor classmate, Lavender Brown.
In 1994, when Harry was required to have a date to the Yule Ball as one of the Triwizard Tournament champions, he asked Parvati when he learned that she still did not have a date and his obvious choices (Cho, Hermione, Ginny) were all taken. Because Lavender had already been asked by Seamus, Parvati suggested Ron take Padma to the ball instead. Dean Thomas believed they were the prettiest girls in their year, and was surprised that Harry and Ron managed to take the two. However, the twins were sorely disappointed as Harry was more interested in Cho Chang while Ron was sulking in jealousy while watching Hermione and Viktor Krum. Both twins left them for two Durmstrang boys.
Despite their horrible dates, the twins continued to be on good terms with Harry. They were a part of Dumbledore’s Army and, from 1997 to 1998, continued to fight against Voldemort and Severus Snape’s reign as Headmaster at Hogwarts. They stayed in the castle to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts. They both survived.
In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Scorpius Malfoy and Albus Potter created an alternative timeline where Ron married Padma Patil instead of Hermione and had a son named Panju Weasley. The name “Panju” is an island in the Indian city of Vasai, which hints at the Patils’ Indian heritage.
Actress: Katie Leung
While it’s never explicitly stated that Cho is a person of color, the fact that her name is “Cho Chang” suggests that she has Asian descent but was raised in Great Britain. “Cho” is a Korean name, while “Chang” is a Chinese family name.
Cho was in a year level above Harry, and was a fourth-year Ravenclaw student when he first met her in his third year. Harry was immediately smitten by Cho, who he thought was very pretty and kind to him. They were both Seekers in their respective Quidditch teams, often clashing in the stadium.
In 1994, Harry attempted to ask Cho to the Yule Ball, but she gently turned him down because Cedric Diggory had already asked her. She began dating Cedric shortly after and became depressed after his death. The following year, she started dating Harry being his first girlfriend as a means of coping with Cedric’s loss, but they ultimately broke up when she defended her friend, Marietta Edgecombe, for ratting out Dumbledore’s Army to Dolores Umbridge. She began dating a couple other boys in her year.
Despite this, however, she did not hate Harry and continued to support his side in the Second Wizarding War. After graduating, she went back to Hogwarts to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts. She survived and, years later, went on to marry a Muggle.