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ConnexionsHistories of Race and Sex in North America$
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Jennifer Brier, Jim Downs, and Jennifer L. Morgan

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040399

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040399.001.0001

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Making Racial Beauty in the United States

Making Racial Beauty in the United States

Toward a History of Black Beauty

Chapter:
(p.113) Chapter 5 Making Racial Beauty in the United States
Source:
Connexions
Author(s):

Stephanie M. H. Camp

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252040399.003.0005

This chapter argues that the tenacity of the hegemonic “white standard of beauty” ideal arises from the fact that its origins reach far back in time and deep into the nature of American racial formations. Its earliest roots can be discerned in ancient Europe, when Greek and Roman artists had depicted Africans as captives and slaves and as monstrous half-men, half-beasts. By the European Middle Ages, however, as Christianity swept Europe, ancient fables about frightening creatures of one sort or another in the subcontinent gained new symbolic weight: blackness became increasingly associated with sin. Fearsome, alluring, sinful, blackness was not unlike temptation itself. Thus, focusing primarily on the nascent field of nineteenth-century racial science, the chapter explains how aesthetics formed crucial markers in articulations of racial difference.

Keywords:   racial beauty, white beauty standard, American racial formations, Africans, blackness, racial science, aesthetics, racial difference

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