black socialites

Growing up in the 1950s, Margo Jefferson was part of Chicago’s black upper class. The daughter of the head of pediatrics at the nation’s oldest black hospital and his socialite wife, Jefferson inhabited a world of ambition, education and sophistication — a place she calls “Negroland.”

Negroland afforded many opportunities, the Pulitzer-Prize winning cultural critic says. But life was also undercut by the fear that her errors and failures would reflect poorly on her family and, subsequently, her race. She tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about the beauty standards that she felt she had to hold herself up to as a child:

“I’m measuring my shade of brown. I’m measuring the width of my nose. I’m measuring the size of my lips. I’m doing the usual things that girls do — what shape are my eyes, are they big, are my features well-proportioned … and I have an exact series of grades for hair as well as shades of skin. And [these standards] extended beyond my world — they really hovered over and imposed themselves on all Negros, black people, African-Americans. It was ruthless, it was mean-spirited, it was bigoted. We were brain-washed into one standard, not just beauty, but acceptability. There is a terrible kind of anthropological “othering” and disdain in those kinds of judgments.”

Privilege And Pressure: A Memoir Of Growing Up Black And Elite In ‘Negroland’

Inktober Day 11!

Today I semi-remembered a story I read once in a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Book. It was about some socialite lady who used to wear a fucking lion around her shoulders to social events. I don’t really remember the details other than that, but I think the newly discovered use for lions was most likely the most important part anyhow…