Pageants, Parlors, and Pretty Women: Race and Beauty in the Twentieth-Century South

Pageants, Parlors, and Pretty Women: Race and Beauty in the Twentieth-Century South

by Blain Roberts
     
 

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From the South's pageant queens to the importance of beauty parlors to African American communities, it is easy to see the ways beauty is enmeshed in southern culture. But as Blain Roberts shows in this incisive work, the pursuit of beauty in the South was linked to the tumultuous racial divides of the region, where the Jim Crow-era cosmetics industry came of age

Overview

From the South's pageant queens to the importance of beauty parlors to African American communities, it is easy to see the ways beauty is enmeshed in southern culture. But as Blain Roberts shows in this incisive work, the pursuit of beauty in the South was linked to the tumultuous racial divides of the region, where the Jim Crow-era cosmetics industry came of age selling the idea of makeup that emphasized whiteness, and where, in the 1950s and 1960s, black-owned beauty shops served as crucial sites of resistance for civil rights activists. In these times of strained relations in the South, beauty became a signifier of power and affluence while it reinforced racial strife.

Roberts examines a range of beauty products, practices, and rituals--cosmetics, hairdressing, clothing, and beauty contests--in settings that range from tobacco farms of the Great Depression to 1950s and 1960s college campuses. In so doing, she uncovers the role of female beauty in the economic and cultural modernization of the South. By showing how battles over beauty came to a head during the civil rights movement, Roberts sheds new light on the tactics southerners used to resist and achieve desegregation.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The good, the bad and the lovely.--Chicago Tribune Printers Row Journal

A most significant addition to the scholarship on southern beauty culture.--Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Roberts has chosen to look at many of the issues of the 20th century through the intimate world of women's beauty regimens and the public world of beauty pageants.--American Press

[Roberts] provides a well-researched and engaging account of beauty, both as a weighty prescription and a tool used by women to widen their spaces of living despite white dominance and patriarchy.--Women's Review of Books

The expression that 'beauty is only skin deep' is put to the test in this well-researched examination of women, race, and standards of attractiveness in the 20th-century US.--Choice

A Notable African-American Title--Publishers Weekly

An important book of American social history and a fine addition to the literature on women of the South in the years between the institution of Jim Crow and its demise.--H-Net Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781469614205
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
03/17/2014
Edition description:
1
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
A compelling, illuminating, and well-written book. . . . An innovative study that will make an important contribution to gender history, histories of the body, American studies, and the history of the twentieth-century U.S. South.--Michele Mitchell, New York University

Meet the Author

Blain Roberts is assistant professor of history at California State University, Fresno.

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