The creativity of author, designer and publisher Ben Arogundade

Black Lives Matter Books: Ben Arogundade’s ‘Black Beauty’ - Perceptions Of Blackness From Antiquity To The Modern Age

BACK IN 2000, Ben Arogundade wrote his groundbreaking bestseller, ‘Black Beauty’ — an illustrated history of the black aesthetic within European society — twenty years on, its impact still resonates. By Ben Arogundade. June. 25, 2020.

THE BLACK BOOK: Jamaican-born recording artist Grace Jones features on the cover of the hardback edition of Ben Arogundade’s bestselling book, ‘Black Beauty’ (Pavilion Books), first released in 2000. Since then the book has been honoured by the New York Public Library and has been made into a three-part BBC documentary.

HOW DID MARTIN LUTHER KING change the face of fashion? What did Malcolm X think of hair straightening? Why did the Afro go out of fashion? Who spat in the face of a well-known fashion designer because he used black models? What lies behind the blonde ambition of black stars such as Rihanna, Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj? How did natural hair become nasty? The answers to these and many other thought-provoking questions are revealed in my best-selling book, ‘Black Beauty’. 


‘Black Beauty’ chronicles the way in which the aesthetics of peoples of African descent have fared throughout Western history and culture, from antiquity to the modern age. Its deep history presents a complex narrative spanning over half a millennia. It is a journey illuminated by the struggles of peoples of colour with issues such as identity, discrimination, coercion and conformity, much of which still underpins beauty culture today, and is newly resonant with the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of African American George Floyd by a white police officer on May 25, 2020.


Originally published as an illustrated hardback in 2000, with a second edition in 2003, ‘Black Beauty’ analyses styles of make-up, hair, skin-tone and facial features, and the way that they have been both accepted and rejected within society. The narrative draws upon the galaxy of black and African American stars of film, fashion, music, television and sports. From Josephine Baker to Beyoncé, from traditional African hairstyles to colour contact lenses and blonde weaves, ‘Black Beauty’ has become the key text for all studies of this branch of beauty history.

Since publication the book has honoured by the New York Public Library, and has been adapted into a three-part BBC documentary. It has now sold out of its print run, but is still available second-hand, via third party sellers.

BLACK INSIDE: a spread from Ben Arogundade’s bestselling book, ‘Black Beauty’. Donyale Luna (main picture and top left), and Naomi Sims (bottom left) were the first black models to break into mainstream fashion, buoyed by the American Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s.


WE HAVE BEEN SHOCKED and appalled by the murder of George Floyd in the US, and heartened by the resistance of the Black Lives Matter movement. In the aftermath, what matters most is not this painful past, but what we are going to do now. I am determined to transform my feelings of anger, pain and sadness into something positive and inclusive, which gathers and unifies citizens of all ethnicities who believe in fairness, equality and love. Hopefully that is you.

As a writer, to do my bit to assist, I am looking to raise funds to write, produce and publish an illustrated history book that narrates the story of society’s prejudices against BAME people in the 21st century, and the subsequent work of Black Lives Matter. Each person who donates the book price or more (£45.00/$55.00) will receive a copy.

I have written before about the history of the black experience, in a book called Black Beauty published in 2000. It went on to become a bestseller, was honoured by the New York Public Library and become the subject of a three-part BBC documentary. My proposed new book is a “sequel” which continues this literary journey into this new century.

The title will become an important educational and historical document that will both inform the growing audience of people seeking to understand how we got here, and also help ensure that the aims and values of the Black Lives Matter movement continue to resonate. 

This is the most important time in the history of the struggle for racial equality since the death of Martin Luther King in 1968. Let us not allow it to pass without doing what we can. Donate now, and let’s go!

Ben Arogundade

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