Caressa Cameron

*Many critics dismiss the Miss America Pageant as a relic of the past and/or the unhealthy objectification of women.

However, for African American women, the trek through Miss America has gone from denial to playing a slave to wearing the crown.

When Virginia Commonwealth University broadcast major Caressa Cameron captured the title a couple of weekend ago, she was the seventh Black woman to be so honored.

Thus, Blacks winning the Miss America crown has become almost commonplace. But it did not start that way. In the beginning, Black females were not allowed anywhere near the pageant. Then in 1923, an African American woman made onto the stage. Her name has been forgotten to history but she was part of a musical number in which she played the role of a slave.

It was not until 1970 that a Black woman actually won a state title and competed in the pageant held in Atlantic City. She was Miss Iowa’s Cheryl Brown.

Miss Arkansas Lencola Sullivan made it to the top five in 1980. Then in 1984, Vanessa Williams became the nation’s first African American Miss America. Some nude and suggestive pictures published in Penthouse magazine forced her to give up the title but she regrouped and still enjoys a successful singing, movie and television career.

One big irony of this year’s pageant was that among the judges was arch-conservative (some say racist) radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. We can only wonder what the “Rush Limbaughs” of 1923 would think. (source: Taylor Media Services)