Black Beauties: African American Pageant Queens in the Segregated South
Kimberly Brown Pellum
In 1984, Vanessa Williams broke the race barrier to become Miss America, but she was not the first Black woman to wear a pageant crown. Black beauty pageants created a distinctive and celebrated cultural tradition during some of the most dismal times in the country’s racial history. With the rise of the Civil Rights and Black Pride movements, pageantry functioned as a social activism strategy and a visual component of self-defined freedom. Ultimately, the author outlines exactly how African-American beauty ceremonies were and are emblematic of the rich tradition of Black public assertion, adornment, image-making and cultural expression. The foreword is written by former Miss America, Ericka Dunlap.