On Aug. 17, 1968, the very first Miss Black America Pageant was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Nineteen-year-old Saundra Williams of Pennsylvania was crowned the pageant's fist winner.
Founded in 1968 by J. Morris Anderson, the Miss Black America pageant was developed to "reverse the negative propaganda of the Black woman and her role in America," the organization writes on its website.
The pageant credited itself for providing African-American women a venue where there may not have been one in other national pageants. Of her big win, Williams famously told the New York Times in 1968, "Miss America doesn't represent us because there has never been a Black girl in the pageant. With my title, I can show Black women they too are beautiful, even though they do have large noses and thick lips. There is a need to keep saying this over and over because for so long none of us believed it."
Most notably, media mogul Oprah Winfrey competed in the pageant in 1972. "The Miss Black America pageant put a flower in my mind," Winfrey later said of the experience.
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