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Book Review: Ain't I a Beauty Queen? Black Women, Beauty, and the Politics of Race

4 pages
931 words
Middlebury College
Type of paper: 
Book review
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Maxine Craig is the author of Ain't I a Beauty Queen? Black Women, Beauty, and the Politics of Race. The author lived in a life which comprised of practices and meanings of racial identity that continuously reshaped the actions of interplay undertaken at institutional and individual levels. Through this book, the author looked at black women as being participants and symbols in reshaping inferences of black racial distinctiveness. Thus, the primary purpose of the author is to give the readers and audiences a model for understanding all the social processes that are linked to racial change. Maxine Craig goes further to depict to the rest of the world places of changing standards of beauty and black hair practices which existed in a historical context but are influential in aiding the changing role of social movements deemed to be essential in reshaping everyday life texture.

Even though the new beauty standards give the impression of arising overnight, they comprised of deep roots that existed within all the black communities. Her story can be traced back to 1891, at a time when black newspaper took part in the launching of a contest which will enable them to find the most beautiful lady of the race. The author documents further how all these black women have tried to negotiate the intersection of politics, class, personal appearance, and race in their respective lives. The author equally takes the readers from parlor beauties that were in the 1940s to political late-night meetings of the 1960s to make evident the persuasive influence of social movements on their daily life experiences.

The author presents a contest of African American beauties. These contest were institutionalized in a way to handle and give individual responses to any racist depictions hurled to black women. With these contest, it constitutes substantiation that these African America women did not at all accept any manner of dominant of racial order as being natural. All these are evident in chapter one where they proclaimed their Civil Rights Movement made sensitive and familiar racial issues through protesting. They went further to denounce all manner of racism from Miss America pageants as well as that of sexism. They didn't stop there; they proceeded to dispense out leaflets which itemized racism amongst the ten points of protesting against the American pageant and its representations.

Black institutions were responsible for forging on with organizing all the social movements and contests. Worth to note that most of these contests were attended by black institutions exclusively except with a few exceptions. Through the author, it also worth noting that contest had separate designs that can be of today be considered as nationalist despite not automatically grouped as analytically because of the earlier expressions that rocked black separatism. The rocked black separatism that they experienced was of enslavement of black women. Quoting them when they were picketing, they said that, "We shall not be used," an adaption that meant that "We shall not be moved."

The author in chapter two also brought out the meaning of the words "black is beautiful." These three words were not synonyms to any political organization but were used to express the totality of the spirit many activists believed. "Black is beautiful" represented the spirit of exuberance and self-love that was felt by many generations that were to come. Quoting one speaker in the movement, she said, "black is beautiful" refers to the new practices of self-presentation and the newly expressed appreciation of dark skin and tightly curled hair that has become widespread in African American communities in the late 1960s and early 1970s." Hence, from the above quote, it evident that author was trying to introduce the readers to contexts were a basis for understanding black beauty reactions and emergencies in African American societies in the early 1970s and even late 1960s. These contexts include; the first context was a historical disparagement of tightly curled hair, facial features, and dark-skinned women. The second consists of a context presentation of African American culture which was viewed as kind grooming offering an avenue for the achievement of well-earned respect. The third was one that facilitated the of arrival beauty as being a political concern. It was influenced by psychological and sociological theories centering on black self-hatred. Finally, the patterns associated with black community privileges based on their skin color.

The author made use of some sources to compile and come up with this book. The sources ranged from black power movement activities to oral histories. He relied mostly on some new television recording that had been aired during the protest eras. Magazines, potters, and newspapers were equally employed as authentic research materials used to come up with this book. The were some renown speeches and letters that addressed women, for instance, that of W.E.B. Du Boils, Marcus Garvey, and Elijah Muhammad among others were incorporated in this book. Finally, some peer-reviewed articles such as Ebony article, "African Beauties," among others were used as research materials by the author.

All in all, the author was successful in bringing out some presentations of non-confrontational methods of expressing any racial pride. The author often strengthened hierarchies of class, color, and gender in hunger to challenge any white supremacy. Therefore, it is true that rest of the world places changing standards on beauty and black hair practices to historical context as being powerful tools in aiding changing roles of social movements which may be essential to reshaping everyday life texture.

Work cited

Craig, Maxine Leeds. Ain't I a beauty queen? Black women, beauty, and the politics of race. Oxford University Press, USA, 2002.

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