Afros, locks and naturals – all symbols of a powerful movement that began with the word of John S. Rock, an African-American abolitionist who was the first black person to be admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. Rock would paraphrase the term “Black is Beautiful” during a speech back in 1858.
Some 100 years later, African Americans would begin a movement illustrating Rock’s words, which encouraged men and women to stop straightening their hair and attempting to lighten or bleach their skin with creams.
The Black is Beautiful movement became the most prominent in the writings of author Steve Biko in his book, the “Black Consciousness Movement” in South Africa. The book and the movement aimed 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. It was meant to dispel the stigma of internalized racism, which caused such things as “paper bag parties” in the black community, where only those with a skin color lighter than a brown paper bag were permitted.
The idea of Black is Beautiful led to the Black nationalist and Uhuru movement of the 60’s and 70’s where the world would be introduced to legends like Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon, Marcus Garvey and Elijah Muhammad. By 1969, there were black characters on 21 primetime television shows.