The Photos That Lifted Up the Black Is Beautiful Movement

  • 2018-11-27
  • The New York Times

The intersection of West 125th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem was, for decades, a center of black nationalism. Street orators — that’s what they were called — climbed onto stepladders and made impassioned calls for African liberation.

It was with AJASS that Mr. Brathwaite started his career in photography, taking pictures first of the artists at the shows and then of residents of Harlem generally. AJASS later expanded its arts activism to include the Grandassas —black women the group recruited to model.

‘Black is beautiful’ became its slogan, widely hailed in the mid-1960s by its artists-activists belonging to the Black Arts Movement. A lot of the early contributions to the Black Arts Movement, like Mr. Brathwaite’s, got lost in this parsing of ideologies. But scholars have now positioned the black power movement alongside the civil rights movement, noting their overlapping concerns and shared visions.