Ebony Magazine

Toni Morrison passed away August 5, 2019.
Wikimedia Commons

Last month, President Donald Trump called Baltimore a “rat and rodent-infested mess” and told four Democratic Congresswomen of color to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” These are just the latest examples of a repeated tactic: the president denigrates women and people of color who oppose him and his policies. What power do his words have and how do they affect the people and the cities he attacks? Popular culture experts Mark Anthony Neal and Natalie Bullock Brown take on that topic with host Frank Stasio in the latest installment of #BackChannel, The State of Things’ recurring series connecting culture and context.

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen, evening gown
Courtesy of NC Art Museum

In 1958, African-American women donned designer dresses and walked the runway for the first Ebony Fashion Fair. 

The charity fashion show was the brainchild of Ebony Magazine co-publisher Eunice Johnson and it showed African-American women as rich and successful. The fair ran for 50 years, and in that time it continued to be a space where African-American women could re-imagine their role in American society and reclaim their beauty.

Model Anita Taylor walks down a runway wearing a desgign by Desiree Hedrick during a fashion show for the kickoff of the exhibit, Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion, at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, N.C.
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

In the 1950s and 60s, images of African-American beauty and fashion models in mainstream media were almost non-existent in the United States.