Chapter

Ain't I a Beauty Queen? Representing the Ideal Black Woman

Maxine Leeds Craig

in Ain't I a Beauty Queen?

Published in print June 2002 | ISBN: 9780195152623
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849345 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195152623.003.0003
Ain't I a Beauty Queen? Representing the Ideal Black Woman

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This chapter presents the history of early African American beauty contests, which were black institutional responses to racist depictions of black women. They constitute evidence that African Americans did not accept the dominant racial order as natural. With few exceptions, the contests were produced by black institutions exclusively for black audiences. Separate by design, these contests can be considered nationalist, though they should not be automatically grouped analytically with later expressions of black separatism. The early black beauty contests were produced in an era of white racist segregation. In that context, black social institutions did not, in and of themselves, present a direct or immediate challenge to whites. Beauty pageants were generally sponsored by members of the black middle class and reflected the biases characteristic of the class. Black newspapers and social clubs established separate black beauty pageants as nonconfrontational ways of expressing racial pride, but they often reinforced hierarchies of gender, class, and color in their challenges to white supremacy.

Keywords: African American women; beauty contests; black women; social institutions; black separatism

Chapter.  7561 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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