This study examines the careers of African American beauty culturists as they worked in the United States, Europe, and Africa between 1945 and 1965. Facing push back at home, African American beauty entrepreneurs frequently sought out international venues that were hospitable and receptive to black Americans in the years following World War II. By strategically using European sites that white Americans regarded as the birthplace of Western fashion and beauty, African American entrepreneurs in the fields of modeling, fashion design, and hair care were able to win accolades and advance their careers. In gaining support abroad, particularly in Europe, these beauty culturists capitalized on their international success to establish, legitimize, and promote their business ventures in the United States. After importing a positive reputation for themselves from Europe to the United States, African American beauty entrepreneurs then exported an image of themselves as the world's premier authorities on black beauty to people of color around the globe as they sold their products and marketed their expertise on the African continent itself. This essay demonstrates the important role that these black female beauty culturists played, both as businesspeople and as race leaders, in their generation's struggle to gain greater respect and opportunity for African Americans both at home and abroad. In doing so it places African American beauty culturists within the framework of transatlantic trade networks, the Black Freedom Movement, Pan-Africanism, and America's Cold War struggle.


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pp. 784-810
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