Twenty People, Places, and Moments of
Black Excellence and Glamour that Made History.
Mae Jones is all about normalizing Black excellence and glamour. Behold 20 moments in American history dripping greatness that you should know about.
Stormy Weather was released in 1943 by MGM and features Lena Horne, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Cab Calloway, the Nicholas Brothers, and so many other talented Black performers. The movie, about the relationship between an aspiring dancer and a popular songstress, is full of just as much glitz and glamour as any other legendary Hollywood musical. Lena Horne singing Stormy Weather (here) and the Nicholas Brothers' unforgettable tap performance (here) are just a few of the movie's iconic moments.
A Classic Hollywood Musical Must See
Vintage Black Glamour
The Ultimate Coffee Table Book On Black Glamour
Written by Nichelle Gainer, this highly acclaimed, silk-covered special edition book is packed with rarely seen photographs of Black actors, models, writers, and entertainers of the early part of the 20th century, many of whom have been sorely neglected—until now!
Zelda Wynn Valdes
The Designer Who Outfitted Hollywood's Most Famous Curves
Zelda Wynn Valdes designed garments for Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, Diahann Carroll, Mae West, and Marlene Dietrich.
Click here to view some of her famous designs.
"Zelda was a designer to the stars who could fit a dress to a body of any size — just by looking at the client. “I only fit her once in 12 years,” Valdes told The New York Times of her long-time client Ella Fitzgerald, “I had to do everything by imagination.” She would simply look at Fitzgerald in the latest paper, noting any changes in her full-figured body, and would design the elaborate gowns — with beads and appliques — that she knew Fitzgerald loved."
Paul R. Williams
The Black Architect That Built Hollywood
Nicknamed “Architect to the Stars,” architect Paul R. Williams was one of the most successful architects of his time. He built homes for Frank Sinatra, Lucy and Dezi Arnez, and even built the Beverly Hills Hotel. But at the height of his career, he wasn’t always welcome in the buildings he designed because of his race. The PBS documentary "Hollywood’s Architect" tells the story of how he used talent, determination, and even charm to defy the odds and create a celebrated body of work.
The History Of Hollywood As It’s Never Been Told
Looking to take a deeper dive into the legacy of Black in the film industry? Hollywood Black, written by Donald Bogle, takes you on the journey starting from the silent era on through to Black Panther. The book is filled with striking photos and detailed history of the stars, films, and filmmakers.
The Harlem Renaissance
The Golden Age Of Black Excellence
You can't talk about Black Hollywood without talking about the Harlem Renaissance. Lasting roughly from the 1910s through the mid-1930s, the Harlem Renaissance is considered a golden age in Black culture, literature, music, stage performance, and art. The development of the Harlem neighborhood in New York City was a cultural mecca in the early 20th century and a subsequent social and artistic explosion resulted from there.
The Couple In The Matching Coats
The First #Mood Picture
This photo of a stylish couple, taken by James Van Der Zee, the most successful portrait photographer working in Harlem during the 1920s and ’30s, posed on a residential street in Harlem, New York represents the mood of the Harlem Renaissance. Their luxurious automobile, his-and-hers coats, and serene expressions together are signifiers of success and Black excellence.
The Stories of America's 1st Black Millionaires
Before Oprah, Jay-Z, and Beyonce there were Mary Ellen Pleasant, Robert Reed Church, Hannah Elias, Annie Turnbo-Malone, Madam C. J Walker, and O. W. Gurley. This book details the astonishing untold history of America’s first black millionaires—former slaves who endured incredible challenges to amass and maintain their wealth for a century. Self-made entrepreneurs whose unknown success mirrored that of American business legends like Ford, Rockefeller, and Edison.
The New York Estate of Madam C. J Walker
The 34-room mansion just north of Manhattan was nearly complete in 1917 when the New York Times proclaimed "Impossible! No woman of her race could afford such a place." Well, she could and she did! America's first self-made female millionaire hired Black designers to create not only a home for herself but a place for the Black community.
The Beauty Salon
The Black beauty salons are "sanctuaries of glamour" within the community. The salon is not only the epicenter of beauty but also a safe place for Black women to talk about cultural topics of importance. At the height of the civil rights movement, Black women found themselves positioned as respected organizers, and beauty salons were essential to their efforts. Black beauty is a multi-million dollar industry with companies founded and created by countless Black women. Click on the button below for a list of 800+ Black-owned beauty brands.
In the 1940s, Mildred Blount opened a hat shop with her sister in Beverly Hills, California. She was one of the best milliners in the city and designed hats for Mirian Anderson, Joan Crawford, Ginger Rodgers, Rosalind Russel, and others. Mildred was the first black person of the Motion Pictures Costumers Union and was known for her work on the films, Gone With The Wind and Easter Parade.
Hollywood's Hat Maker
By definition, a debutante (French for “female beginner”) is a young woman who, as a new adult, comes out into society at a formal “debut”. The tradition of balls dates back to when Queen Elizabeth I began the custom of presenting eligible young women at court. However, when segregation barred Black girls from participating in cotillions, the Black communities started their own. By the 1940s Black sororities, fraternities, civic and social organizations formed the Black social structure in communities and the cotillions, hosted by their local chapters, gained popularity. The cotillion programs offer exposure in the areas of etiquette, appropriate dress, and civic involvement.
Not only did Ann Lowe design Jackie's wedding dress, she made the bridesmaid's dresses too! With no formal training, Ann learned to sew from her grandmother, a freed slave who worked as a seamstress on a plantation, and designed dresses for clients that included Roosevelts, Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Whitneys, and Vanderbilts.
The Designer Of Jackie Kennedy's Iconic Wedding Dress
Ann's 1966 interview with Ebony Magazine is a must!
Click the button below to read.
Historically Black Summer Communities
Segregation often meant beaches were made unavailable to Blacks. Oak Bluffs, Sag Harbor, and Idlewild were just a few of the beachfront communities created by upper-middle-class Black families. These luxury summer communities have been thriving for generations and continue to fight to hold on to their identity and history. Read about them here and click the button below to watch the documentary "A Place Of Our Own" which details filmmaker Stanley Nelson's own family's experience and history in Oak Bluffs.
A Place Of Our Own
The owners of Johnson Publishing, John H. Johnson founded Ebony Magazine in 1945 and its digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, a few years later. Ebony is a monthly magazine that focuses on news, culture, and entertainment, lifestyles, and accomplishments of influential Black people, fashion, beauty, and politics.
The Pioneers of Black Media
Ebony Fashion Fair was a traveling fashion show that brought designers to a Black audience, a community often overlooked by the fashion industry. Mrs. Johnson would fly to Europe to meet with the designers and curate the collections that would be shown during the runway shows. Legendary Black models like Pat Cleveland often walked the Fashion Fair show. A portion of the ticket sales would also go to fund charities like the NAACP.
Click on the button below for a short documentary and to learn more about the vision of Eunice Johnson.
The Vision of Eunice Johnson
Ebony's Fashion Fair
Black models have changed—and are continuing to change—the fashion and modeling industry. Supreme Models is the first book of its kind to pay tribute to black models past and present: from the first to be featured in catalogs and on magazine covers, like Iman, Beverly Johnson, and Donyale Luna, to the supermodels who reigned in the nineties--Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell. Click the button below to purchase and explore The first-ever art book celebrating black models, filled with revealing essays, interviews, and stunning photographs. Written by stylist Marcellas Reynolds
Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion
Pulitzer-Prize winning fashion journalist Robin Givhan's book gives us a detailed look at the night in 1973 when the fashion world gathered at the Palace of Versailles for an international show. American designers showed their work against the five French designers. Against all odds, the American energy and the domination by the fearless models (ten of whom, in a groundbreaking move, were African American) sent the audience reeling.
The Battle of Versailles
The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History
Bethann Hardison was one of the trailblazing models to walk at the battle of Versailles. She's spent her career championing diversity in the fashion industry. In 1988, she established the Black Girls Coalition to celebrate Black models and be a support and advocacy group for models of color. In a recent conversation Bethann, Iman, and Naomi talked about the evolution of the industry. If you missed this very special moment, click the button below to watch!
Model, Advocate, Legend
The museum, that housed clothing that traces the historical contributions of Black designers and clothing makers to fashion, was originally established in Harlem, New York in 1979. The collection comprises more than 700 garments, 300 accessories, and 60 boxes of archival material collected by Lois K. Alexander-Lane throughout her life include gowns created by Ann Lowe. In 2007, the Black Fashion Museum and its collection became a part of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The Black Fashion Museum
Founded by Lois Kindle Alexander-Lane