Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful

Photographs and introduction by Kwame Brathwaite
Essays by Tanisha C. Ford and Deborah Willis

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Hardcover

Regular Price: $40.00

Special Price $34.00

8 ½ x 10 ½ in. (21.6 x 27 cm) 144 pages, 91 black-and-white and four-color images Hardcover with jacket 978-1-59711-443-1 May 2019

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.


Kwame Brathwaite (born in New York, 1938) lives and works in New York. His photographs have been included in solo and group exhibitions at Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles; David Nolan Gallery, New York; and the Museum of the City of New York, and published in Aperture, the New Yorker, the New York Times, and New York magazine. Brathwaite’s photography is held in public and private collections, including those of the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Museum of the City of New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The Aperture exhibition Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite is presented by the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, in 2019.


Tanisha C. Ford is associate professor of Africana studies and history at the University of Delaware. She is the author of Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion (2019) and 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.


Deborah Willis is an award-winning author and professor and is chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. One of the leading historians of African American photography, she is the author of numerous books, including Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery (2017, with Barbara Krauthamer), Out [o] Fashion Photography: Embracing Beauty (2013), Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present (2009), and Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits (2008).

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