Early African-American Beauty Pageant circa 1955? Original transparent Slide Collection Jim Linderman
A striking, and notable photograph slide from the 1950s collection Jim Linderman
A decade or more before the chant "Black is Beautiful" some history appears to be happening here.
While the promoters likely wish you didn't know it now, "Rule Number Seven" prevented women of color from participating in the Miss America contest until around 1970! The rule specified contestants had to be of the white race, although much earlier pageants had used them in dance numbers as slaves. During the nascent days of the 1970s women's movent, they had reasons to hate the show they didn't even know. That is, the show did not objectify women equally!
This pageant, on the west coast by an unidentified photographer certainly not only proves how wrong the Atlantic City promoters were, it seems to break serious ground. As I wrote in the book "Secret History of the Black Pinup" it was photographer Howard Morehead who organized the first black beauty pageant in Los Angeles in 1958. This slide could document one even earlier.
In 2002, PBS aired a documentary in The American Experience series reporting Black communities organized their own, and they did. This is a splendid example, and one I believe was not widely reported. Further study? Black Beauty Pageants. The documentary mentions a 1968 pageant, but not this one.
Let's hope some doctoral students pick up on this. Black History Month is on the way.
Untitled Slide Photograph Untitled (Black Beauty Contest) circa 1955? 3" x 3"
Collection Jim Linderman