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Miss Black America: The Pageant Changed History


Vanessa Williams originally became famous as the first African American Miss America (1984).

Almost 20 years prior to Vanessa Williams being named Miss America, the civil rights movement was making it abundantly clear that the Miss America pageant was unfairly restricted to white women. In 1950 the pageant had abolished a rule that excluded black contestants, but the lily-white pageant hadn’t changed.

In 1967, J. Morris Anderson, a Philadelphia businessman, found this bias additionally troubling. He had two daughters, both of whom expressed interest in growing up to “be Miss America.”

What does a dad do when he knows his daughters are dreaming an impossible dream? He gathers his resources and starts a pageant of his own, Miss Black America.

Bayer Mack and the producers of Oscar Micheaux: The Czar of Black Hollywood have created a documentary short to tell the story of the creation of the Miss Black America pageant.


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