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Black is beautiful is a cultural movement that began in the United States of America in the 1960s by African Americans. It later spread to much of the black world, most prominently in the writings of the Black Consciousness Movement of Steve Biko in South Africa. It aims to dispel the notion in many world cultures that black people's natural features such as skin color, facial features and hair are inherently ugly.[1] John Sweat Rock was long thought to be the first to coin the phrase "black is beautiful"–during a speech in 1858–but historical records indicate he never actually used the specific phrase on that day.[2] The movement also encouraged men and women to stop straightening their hair and attempting to lighten or bleach their skin.[3]

The prevailing idea in American culture, perpetuated by the media, was that black features are less attractive or desirable than white features. The idea that blackness was ugly was highly damaging to the psyche of African Americans, manifesting itself as internalized racism.[4] This idea even existed in black communities[5] and led to practices such as paper bag parties. According to figures compiled by the Essence market research team, African Americans spend 25 percent more of their disposable income on personal care products than the general population.[6]


  1. Some notes on the BLACK CULTURAL MOVEMENT
  2. The Journal of Negro History, Association for the Study of Negro Life and History,Vol.54,No. 4 (Oct., 1969)pp. 405-406
  3. Jamaica Says Black Is Beautiful
  4. Key Issues in Postcolonial Feminism: A Western Perspective by Chris Weedon, Cardiff University

    In her novel The Bluest Eye (1970), Toni Morrison depicts the effects of the legacy of 19th century racism for poor black people in the United States. The novel tells of how the daughter of a poor black family, Pecola Breedlove, internalizes white standards of beauty to the point where she goes mad. Her fervent wish for blue eyes comes to stand for her wish to escape the poor, unloving, racist environment in which she lives.

  5. "Black is Beautiful" and the Color Preferences of Afro-American Youth - Claud Anderson, Rue L. Cromwell, The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 46, No. 1 (Winter, 1977), pp. 76-88 doi:10.2307/2966874
  6. Embracing `BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL' - African American involvement in fashion industry, and consumer spending on apparel and beauty care products - Statistical Data Included Black Issues in Higher Education, Jan 4, 2001 by Kendra Hamilton