Black Beauties: African American Pageant Queens in the Segregated South

by Kimberly Brown Pellum

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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 also represented a component of social activism. Professor Kimberly Pellum explores this glamourous and profound history with contributions by dozens of former contestants who share their personal experiences.

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