It Started Earlier Than You Thought

Women wore their hair in a natural style for a fashion show. It was a contest that gave a cash prize for the winner. These women were sporting natural beauty before it was in fashion

A group of young men started an organization called the African Jazz At Society (AJAS) in the late 1950s. Kwame Braithwaite wanted to capture the essence of jazz in Harlem in photography. He wanted his audience to feel it and hear it through his work.

in the 1960s The Grandassa Models was formed to champion African inspired clothing and black beauty according to Tanisha Ford who has written a wonderful history of the experience.

Pushing The Limits

She was nice named the Black Greta Garbo, and one look at her proved why. She dispelled the myth at African Americans were ugly, untalented and stupid.

Nina Mae McKinney had starred in an all African American cast show, Hallelujah. The amazing job she did in that show, gained her a contract from MGM. It turned out to be a hollow victory. They only offered her roles as maids and servants, and never any lead roles.

McKinney was not the only African American who refused to deal with the hand she was dealt in the entertainment industry. Josephine Baker received a scathing review from a mainstream newspaper critic who called her homely and untalented. But in France, she became an icon by singing, dancing and pushing her talent to new limits

Our beauty has pushed through a lot of pain, but it has pushed through.


Africans from the regions of Gambia and Senegal were captured by slavers in 17th Century and sold into French America. They were smart individuals who understood agriculture and could adapt their skill sets in slavery. Even though they purchased their freedom from slavery, found themselves as part of a permanent slave class which even restricted how they looked.

They had to keep their hair covered according to the law.

 She was probably one of the most popular images of African American women in the late 19th Century which eluded to something other than beauty. She was popular and became an icon that would last for centuries. She would become a symbol of beauty in a different way.

Nancy Green was born a slave in 1834 in Kentucky. After slavery she got a job in Chicago taking care of children and cooking for privilege families.  Later she got a job with the Davis Mill Company being the spokesperson for Aunt Jemima Pancakes.  They put her face on the package.

In the month of April we will examine African American beauty