Queen's University

Brown Beauty: Color, Sex, and Race from the Harlem Renaissance to World War II

Cover: Brown Beauty, by Queen's professor Dr. Laila Haidarali. This book examines how the media influenced ideas of race and beauty among African American women from the Harlem Renaissance to World War II.  This book examines how the media influenced ideas of race and beauty among African American women from the Harlem Renaissance to World War II.

Between the Harlem Renaissance and the end of World War II, a complicated discourse emerged surrounding considerations of appearance of African American women and expressions of race, class, and status. Brown Beauty considers how the media created a beauty ideal for these women, emphasizing different representations and expressions of brown skin.

This book argues that the idea of brown as a “respectable shade” was carefully constructed through print and visual media in the interwar era. Throughout this period, brownness of skin came to be idealized as the real, representational, and respectable complexion of African American middle class women. Shades of brown became channels that facilitated discussions of race, class, and gender in a way that would develop lasting cultural effects for an ever-modernizing world. 

This book is an eye-opening account of the intense dynamics between racial identity and the influence mass media has on what, and who we consider beautiful. (Read More)