06 Sep
Fri / 2019

Inside the MFAH
Meet the Designer of the “Black Is Beautiful” Mural

Graphic designer Bob Gumbs shares his vision for an iconic poster and talks about his role in the landmark 1960s movement.

Standing 20 feet tall in the exhibition Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography is the striking “Black Is Beautiful” mural—a large-scale reproduction of the poster that exemplified the “Black Is Beautiful” movement. Graphic designer Bob Gumbs describes his role within the movement and his inspiration behind the now-iconic poster.

What’s the “Black Is Beautiful” movement? What was the driving force behind it?
“Black Is Beautiful” celebrates the beauty of black people: their dark skin color, facial features, and natural hair. The movement began in the 1960s with inspiration from Marcus Garvey, the great Jamaican, Pan-Africanist leader, who in the 1920s encouraged people of African descent around the world to be proud of their African beauty and culture.

Describe your role in the movement and your connection to photographer Kwame Brathwaite.
I was a member of the African Jazz Art Society & Studios (AJASS), a cultural organization of artists and photographers founded by Kwame Brathwaite and his brother, Elombe Brath. In 1962, AJASS created a series of African-inspired “Naturally” hair and fashion shows featuring the Grandassa Models to promote “Black Is Beautiful” and the natural-hair movement.

What was your design inspiration? How was the poster used within the “Black Is Beautiful” movement?
I was inspired by the tremendous success of the “Naturally” hair and fashion shows. In 1970, I designed the “Black Is Beautiful” poster using Kwame Brathwaite’s photographs of the Grandassa Models to promote these shows.

What is it like to see your work on view at the MFAH in the Icons of Style exhibition—especially 20 feet tall?
It is an honor for me and a highlight of my career as an artist to see the “Black Is Beautiful” poster, reproduced as a large mural in this historic fashion photography exhibition. The “Black Is Beautiful” movement—and Kwame Brathwaite’s photographs published in newspapers and magazines and shown in exhibitions around the country—continue to have a positive influence on how people see the beauty of black women today.

► See the “Black Is Beautiful” mural, the work of Kwame Brathwaite, and more in “Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography” on view in the Law Building through September 22.

Recent Posts

Post Archives

Tag Cloud

18th-century 1970s 19th-century 35mm 5womenartists abstract activity african-art a-history-of-photography akan american american-art ancient and angelica-kauffmann animals animation anna-atkins antiquities architecture archive armchair-travel art art-books artist artists art-of-the-islamic-worlds arts-of-india azaleas bayou bayou-bend bayou-bend-christmas-village bend bestowing-beauty biblical biography book british british-arrows british-art broadways-amazing-mastersons buffalo-bayou-park-cistern campus campus-redevelopment cannes carroll-sterling-masterson chair chef chinese-art christmas christmas-fun cinema cisternrain classic classic-films cocktail coffee collection color colors-of-the-oasis community concrete conservation contemporary-art contemporary-arts-museum-houston contemporary-film contesting-modernity countess cullen-sculpture-garden culture curator curators-picks dance decorative-arts degas degas-a-new-vision design digital documentary documents dont-blink-robert-frank drama drawings dutch-art electronic elizabeth-i england e-records exhibition exhibitions eye-on-houston family family-programs fashion fashion-fusion feast festival fiber-arts field film films flowers food francis-bacon free french french-art fun future futuremfah gainsborough gallery gallery-interpretation garden garden-paradise gardens george-iii glassell glassell-school-of-art google-art-project google-arts-and-culture habsburg-splendor-masterpieces-from-viennas-imperial-collections halloween happyhour happy-new-year harris-masterson-iii henry-viii hirsch-library history history-book-club holiday holiday-fun hollywood home homemfah homeso-different-so-appealing houston howe hurricane-harvey icaa ikat ima-hogg impressionism indian-art instagram interactive ipads islamic italian japanese-art john-biggers joshua-reynolds kenwood kids king kodak kusama latin latin-america latin-american latin-american-art latino-art latin-wave latinx laura-israel learning-and-interpretation love mail manet maria-fernanda-cardoso mastersons mayan-art media meditation mending-craft-and-community mexican-film mexican-modernism mexico mfa-cafe mfah mfah-book-club mfah-films mfah-in-the-community mfah-staff modern modernism movie movies movies-houstonians-love mueck mueckmfah museum museum-education music native-american-art new nhprc now-on-view now-playing organic oscar-de-la-renta oscars painting paintings paint-the-revolution paris paul-thomas-anderson peacock-in-the-desert-the-royal-arts-of-jodhpur-india peacockmfah persian persian-art photographs photography picasso portrait portraits pose prints prints-and-drawings programs queen-victoria radical rebel-jester-mystic-poet recipe rembrandt-van-rijn rienzi ron-mueck rothko sampler school sculpted-in-steel sculpture self-portrait shadow-monsters shepherds short-films slow-art-day snail snapshot spain spanish-art spring style summer technology texas textiles thanksgiving the the-al-sabah-collection theater the-glamour-and-romance-of-oscar-de-la-renta trivia tudors-to-windsors valentines-day venezuelan-art video vincent-van-gogh vincent-van-gogh-his-life-in-art virtual wagner-garden-carpet watercolor winter women-filmmakers womens-history-month works-on-paper yoga zoom