Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful



ISBN: 9781597114431 Category:


Powerful portraits from the 1960s “Black Is Beautiful” movement.

In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Kwame Brathwaite used his photography to popularize the political slogan “Black Is Beautiful.” This monograph-the first ever dedicated to Brathwaite’s remarkable career-tells the story of a key, but under-recognized, figure of the second Harlem Renaissance.

Inspired by the writings of activist and black nationalist Marcus Garvey, Brathwaite, along with his older brother, Elombe Brath, founded the African Jazz Arts Society and Studios (AJASS) and the Grandassa Models (1962). AJASS was a collective of artists, playwrights, designers, and dancers; Grandassa Models was a modeling agency for black women, founded to challenge white beauty standards. From stunning studio portraits of the Grandassa Models to behind-the-scenes images of Harlem’s artistic community, including Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, and Miles Davis, this book offers a long-overdue exploration of Brathwaite’s life and work.

Additional information

Weight 958 g
Dimensions 21.7 x 27.5 cm
Publisher name Aperture Foundation
Publication date 1 July 2019
Number of pages 144
Format Hardback
Contributors Photographs by Kwame Brathwaite, Text by Tanisha C. Ford and Deborah Willis
Dimensions 21.7 x 27.5 cm
Weight 958 g


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Kwame Brathwaite (born in Brooklyn, New York, 1938) is represented by Philip Martin in Los Angeles. Beginning in the early 1960s, Brathwaite photographed stories for black publications such as the New York Amsterdam News , City Sun , and Daily Challenge , helping set the stage for the Black Arts and Black Power movements. By the 1970s, Brathwaite was one of the era's top concert photographers, shaping the images of such public figures as Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, James Brown, and Muhammad Ali. Recent acquirers of Brathwaite's work include the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College.

Tanisha C. Ford (essay) is associate professor of Africana studies and history at the University of Delaware. She is the author of Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul (2015), which won the 2016 Organization of American Historians' Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for best book on civil rights history. She was featured in Aperture 's Fall 2017 issue, "Elements of Style," among many other publications. Ford is a cofounder of TEXTURES, a pop-up material culture lab, creating and curating content on fashion and the built environment.

Deborah Willis (essay) is an artist, writer, and curator, as well as professor and chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. She has been a Richard D. Cohen Fellow of African and African American Art History at the Hutchins Center, Harvard University (2014), a Guggenheim Fellow (2005), a Fletcher Fellow (2005), and a MacArthur Fellow (2000). Willis received the NAACP Image Award in 2014 for her coauthored book Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery (2013).