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12 Gorgeous Photos of Vintage Black Beauty Pageants

Avatar • Nov 1, 2015

The institution of beauty pageantry has been around since the 1800s. The Miss America pageant was created in 1921. The first black woman did not enter the Miss America Pageant until 1970. That was just a little under 40 years ago! In response to the segregation of these pageants, organizations such as the Afro-American Unity Movement and NAACP pushed to create the Miss Black America pageant in 1968.

Similarly, the Miss Black Beauty pageant emerged in Harlem and expected contestants to follow guidelines which celebrated black beauty:

Hair must be in its natural state whether kinky, curly or lanky. No lipstick, eyebrow pencil or falsies.

No matter the guidelines of these contests, they achieved something remarkable in an era that attempted to erase representation for black women.

Fascinating fact: Did you know that Oprah Winfrey won the title of Miss Black Tennessee in 1971.

5.-Won-1971-Miss-Black-Tennessee-beauty-pageant

Check out these fabulous photos…

African American Beauty Contestants

jim linderman
Black Beauty Contest circa 1955, Credit: Jim Linderman

Miss Black Ball State Pageant Source

Miss Black Ball State Pageant Source

Credit: Henry Clay

Credit: Henry Clay

Miss Black America Pageant Contestants Source

Miss Black America Pageant Contestants Source

Harlem Beauty Pageant. 1963. Leonard Freed. Source

Harlem Beauty Pageant. 1963. Leonard Freed. Source

American Lincoln Pageant, 1947

American Lincoln Pageant, 1947 Source

Corpus Christi 1937 Juneteenth Beauty Pageant

Corpus Christi 1937 Juneteenth Beauty Pageant

Source

Miss Black and Beautiful, 1970s BritainSource

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About Rinny

Texan by birth, Los Angeleno by situation. Lover of Tame Impala and Shoegaze music. Comedian by trade. Macaroni and Cheese connoisseur by appetite.

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Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago

black is beautiful

Marmaduke
Marmaduke
5 years ago

all gorgeous ladies. what I admire the most is that none of them are deathly skinny but all of them look relatively healthy at the same time.

Jasmine Simone Hanks
Jasmine Simone Hanks
5 years ago

This made my day! I love these vintage pictures. So beautiful.

Cami
Cami
5 years ago

Loved these, especially the 8th photo from the top — the woman in the dress, hat and gloves is the gorgeous Dorothy Dandridge (approx. 1945).

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