Topic Proposal

The Civil Rights Movement had just ended a few years back and the changes it brought forth were being put into practice, one of those were the image of African American peoples in media and image of themselves and how they were to be represented in the public and private arenas. The Black is Beautiful Movement had started a decade earlier and still going. This image was to focus on the beauty of African Americans as opposed to Eurocentric images of beauty set upon blacks worldwide. My research will look at the movement in the 1960-1970’s. My argument is that the Black is Beautiful movement was successful in changing the view of African American women and that the effects are still seen today. Also showing the beauty myth in the black community specifically for women and the waves of change it went through. By focusing on the movement and the 1970’s I want to look at the beginnings of the movement and interactions with African American women during the time and whether it effected them socially, economically, or politically. If possible I would also like to tie in modern interpretations and issues that face African American women through their beauty image.

My research plan is to look at primary sources from magazines and advertisements about the racialization of beauty norms. My primary sources will mostly be African American published magazines from the time that include Jet Magazine, Ebony Magazine, and Essences Magazine. With these primary sources I will use them to see how the movement was written about in popular black publications and the reactions to the movement. Also these sources are great for advertisement and whether the social changes was reflected in the economic movements of African American women. With secondary sources, I want to look at the responses to the movement and how the movement was interpreted by later generations and the after effects of. One of these secondary sources is Susannah Walker’s Style and Status: Selling Beauty to African American Women, 1920-1975. Walker’s book looks at the economic response to the beauty myth and forced image on African American women during those decades. Another example is Ingrid Banks’ Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women’s Consciousness which focuses more on the social history of the Black is Beauty movement. The social, political, and economic reflection of the movement will also be shown in secondary sources.

The Beauty Myth affects African American women even today. Public discourse about images in magazines continue to perpetrate he celebration of straight hair and light skin. The continued preference over one image portrayal of black women has been a constant issue. By the end of the research a better view on the black beauty myth will be available and the gathering of information in one place to be reviewed allows for others to see the changes through the years of the myth.

Primary Sources

Ebony Magazine

Essences Magazine

Jet Magazine

Secondary Sources


Banks, Ingrid. Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women’s Consciousness. New York: NY Press, 2000.

Brown, Kimberly Nichele. Writing the Black Revolutionary Diva Women’s Subjectivity and the Decolonizing Text. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

Brown, Kimberly. “The Battle for Black Beauty: Howard University’s Grooming Program for Women and African-American Activism in Redefining Aesthetic Ideology through Pageants Since 1925.” PhD diss., Howard University, 2013.

Byrd, Ayana and Tharps, Lori. Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. St. Martin’s Press: NY, 2001.

Craig, Maxine Leeds. Ain’t I a Beauty Queen? : Black Women, Beauty, and the Politics of Race. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Gill, Tiffany M. Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women’s Activism in the Beauty Industry. Women in American History. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2010.

Johnson, Abby Arthur, Johnson, Ronald Maberry. Propaganda and Aesthetics: The Literary Politics of African-American Magazines in the Twentieth Century. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1991.

Johnson, Elizabeth. “African-American Women’s Hair as Text.” PhD diss., Bowling Green State University, 2004.

Jones, Charisse, and Shorter-Gooden, Kumea. Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America. DIANE Publishing Company: PA, 2005.

Mason, Aurielle C. “Hair Shame: Multigenerational Transmission of Internalized Racism in African American Women.”  PhD diss., California School of Professional Psychology Alliant International University 2015.

Noble, Jeanne L. Beautiful, Also, Are the Souls of My Black Sisters: A History of the Black Woman in America. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1978.

Rooks, Noliwe M. Hair Raising: Beauty, Culture, and African American Women. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1996.

Walker, Susannah. Style & Status: Selling Beauty to African American Women, 1920-1975. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2007.

Walker, Susannah Feeney. “For Appearance’s Sake: African American Women’s Commercial Beauty Culture From 1920 to the 1970s.”PhD diss., Carnegie Melon University; 2001.

Wallace-Sanders, Kimberly. Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002.

White, Deborah G. Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999.