The Miss Black America Pageant (MBA) has been showcasing the dynamic beauty of African-American women for 44 years, which was began as a natural counter protest to the predominately white Miss America contest.
Initially starting as a local Philadelphia-area contest, the event has since expanded to a national event with many Black entertainers showing their support.
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Media mogul Oprah Winfrey was a contestant herself a time ago.
J. Morris Anderson was inspired to create the MBA in 1967 after speaking with his two young daughters who desired to become Miss America, although the contest at the time didn’t allow Black women to join the competition.
With help from Phillip H. Savage, then director of the Tri-State NAACP, Anderson was able to get nationwide press coverage for his event. Anderson held it in Atlantic City on the same night as the Miss America event; he would meet angry protests and invasive inquiries from Black newspapers.
Saundra Williams of Philadelphia won the inaugural pageant. A tall, slender and Afro-wearing beauty, Ms. Williams stood as a proud example for young African-American women. Anderson would eventually negotiate with television network NBC to run the MBA live on air.
Support from both those in Hollywood and the music world has been strong. Stevie Wonder, the aforementioned Ms. Winfrey, Spike Lee, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and countless others have appeared on the MBA stage as part of the lavish affair.
The contest is still ongoing with the MBA gearing up for its 2012-2013 event. There are three tiers of competition: kids (ages 9-12), teens (ages 13-17) and adults (18-29).