The creativity of author, designer, broadcaster Ben Arogundade

Black Lives Matter Books: Ben Arogundade’s ‘Black Beauty’ - Perceptions Of Blackness From Antiquity To The Modern Age

BACK IN 2000, Ben Arogundade wrote his groundbreaking bestseller, ‘Black Beauty’ — an illustrated history of the black aesthetic within European society — twenty years on, its impact still resonates. By Ben Arogundade. June. 25, 2020.

THE BLACK BOOK: Jamaican-born recording artist Grace Jones features on the cover of the hardback edition of Ben Arogundade’s bestselling book, ‘Black Beauty’ (Pavilion Books), first released in 2000. Since then the book has been honoured by the New York Public Library and has been made into a three-part BBC documentary.

HOW DID MARTIN LUTHER KING change the face of fashion? What did Malcolm X think of hair straightening? Why did the Afro go out of fashion? Who spat in the face of a well-known fashion designer because he used black models? What lies behind the blonde ambition of black stars such as Rihanna, Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj? How did natural hair become nasty? The answers to these and many other thought-provoking questions are revealed in my best-selling book, ‘Black Beauty’. 


‘Black Beauty’ chronicles the way in which the aesthetics of peoples of African descent have fared throughout Western history and culture, from antiquity to the modern age. Its deep history presents a complex narrative spanning over half a millennia. It is a journey illuminated by the struggles of peoples of colour with issues such as identity, discrimination, coercion and conformity, much of which still underpins beauty culture today, and is newly resonant with the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of African American George Floyd by a white police officer on May 25, 2020.


Originally published as an illustrated hardback in 2000, with a second edition in 2003, ‘Black Beauty’ analyses styles of make-up, hair, skin-tone and facial features, and the way that they have been both accepted and rejected within society. The narrative draws upon the galaxy of black and African American stars of film, fashion, music, television and sports. From Josephine Baker to Beyoncé, from traditional African hairstyles to colour contact lenses and blonde weaves, ‘Black Beauty’ has become the key text for all studies of this branch of beauty history.

Since publication the book has honoured by the New York Public Library, and has been adapted into a three-part BBC documentary. It has now sold out of its print run, but is still available second-hand, via third party sellers.

BLACK INSIDE: a spread from Ben Arogundade’s bestselling book, ‘Black Beauty’. Donyale Luna (main picture and top left), and Naomi Sims (bottom left) were the first black models to break into mainstream fashion, buoyed by the American Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s.

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