In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Kwame Brathwaite used photography to popularize the political slogan “Black Is Beautiful.” This exhibition—the first ever dedicated to Brathwaite’s remarkable career—tells the story of a key 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. AJASS was a collective of artists, playwrights, designers, and dancers. Grandassa Models—the subject of much of this show’s contents— was a modeling troupe for Black women, founded to challenge white beauty standards. From stunning studio portraits to behind-the-scenes images of Harlem’s artistic community, including Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, this show offers a long-overdue exploration of Brathwaite’s life and work.

Kwame Brathwaite 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 NewsCity 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. Brathwaite wrote about and photographed such landmark events as the the Motortown Revue at the Apollo (1963); Wattstax ’72 (1972); the Jackson 5’s first trip to Africa (1974); and the festival “Zaire ’74,” which accompanied the famous Foreman-Ali fight, the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Recent acquirers of Brathwaite’s work include the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College.

Exhibition organized by Aperture, New York and Kwame S. Brathwaite. The exhibition Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite and the accompanying Aperture publication, are made possible, in part, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Photographic Arts Council Los Angeles.


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Includes 42 framed photographs primarily in 3 sizes: 18.5 x 18.5 in.; 31 x 31 in.; and 62 x 62 in. Also are ephemera items including Blue Note record albums featuring Brathwaite’s photographs, garments w/ display mannequins, and posters of the Grandassa Models.

Participation Fee:
Please contact Annette Booth at or (212) 946-7128 to discuss pricing.


Skirball Cultural Center
Los Angeles
April 11 – September 1, 2019

Museum of the African Diaspora
San Francisco
December 4, 2019 – March 1, 2020

Columbia Museum of Art
Columbia, South Carolina
June 26 – September 6, 2020

Blanton Museum of Art
Austin, Texas
June 27 – September 19, 2021

Detroit Art Institute
Oct 8, 2021 — Sun, Jan 16, 2022

Reynolda House Museum of American Art
Winston-Salem, NC
February 2 – May 8, 2022

The New-York Historical Society
New York, NY
August 19, 2022 –January 16, 2023

University of Alabama at Birmingham for the Abroms‐Engel Institute for the Visual Arts
Birmingham, AL
February 6, 2023 –March 27, 2023

A free teacher resource is intended to inform educators about the exhibition Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, so they are better able to lead students of all ages in meaningful discussions surrounding its content. For more information about Aperture’s educational resources contact