Miss Black America

By Brianna Holder

Saundra Williams, the first crowned winner of the Miss Black America Pageant in 1968 centered between two contestants. Photo: AP

“The scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in the American society.” – John Lewis. Today, social media has made such an enormous impact when dealing with racism. Everyone seems to be feeling this impact; it makes one think about race in ways that they may not have thought about before.

Social media plays a significant role in racial tensions today. Americans can post whatever they want and get away with it, so racism is largely being thrown around and no one seems to care. African Americans have gone through racism since the beginning of time. Even though we have come a long way from slavery, racism is something that almost every African American has gone through at least once in their lives. There are laws in place to prohibit discrimination and racism, but there is still racism everywhere.

Black women have it the worst. Women are still fighting every day to have the same rights as men, and on top of that, Black women also have to deal with racism. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to be discriminated against in two diverse ways. The Miss Black America Pageant gives Black women the empowerment to be Black, powerful, and beautiful. Black girls all over America can look up at these women and see that they are more than just the stereotypes that society has formed for them. The women who participate in the Miss Black America Pageant show Black girls that they can be whatever they want to be and that there is nothing stopping them from following their dreams.



J. Morris Anderson got the idea to establish the Miss Black America Pageant when his daughter approached him and showed interest in being Miss America. Unfortunately, African American women were not yet allowed to take part in the Miss America Pageant. At the time when Anderson created the Miss Black America Pageant, racism was at its prime. In the face of a society that separated Blacks and whites, Anderson created something special for Black women. He came up with a Miss Black America Pageant to offer Black women the opportunity to participate in a Miss America of their own. He would have the contestants participate in the same events as those in the Miss America Pageant, while holding it right across from and at the same time as the Miss America Pageant.

The first Miss Black America Pageant made its way to Atlantic City on August 17, 1968. Before the first Miss Black America Pageant, African American beauty pageants were usually held at colleges. The pageant took place in a ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton, just blocks from the Miss America Pageant and the judges crowned Saundra Williams as the first Miss Black America. In 1971, Oprah Winfrey participated in the Miss Black America Pageant as Miss Black Tennessee.

The Miss Black America Pageant was not just created to show white people that they no longer had control over the things African Americans do, but to show young Black women that they can be beautiful, confident individuals. The pageant protested and sought to diminish the negative attitudes and images surrounding African American women. Young Black girls need someone to look up to and the Miss Black America Pageant allows those girls to see that being Black is beautiful. Making sure that this pageant continues for future generations is important because it plays such a significant role for African American girls. It will always serve as a reminder to America that there was a time that African American women were not allowed to participate in the Miss America pageant.

This pageant has played a significant role in the lives of young Black girls, demonstrating to them that they can strive to be whatever they want. Atlantic City is full of poverty and broken dreams, but this pageant allows girls to see successful Black women and how far they can go if they try.  Today, with all the social media out there, you see plenty of products for Black women to bleach their skin and get lighter skin. The Black Miss America embraces Black women and the color that they are.