Ladies' Pages: African American Women's Magazines and the Culture That Made Them

Ladies' Pages: African American Women's Magazines and the Culture That Made Them

Ladies' Pages: African American Women's Magazines and the Culture That Made Them

Ladies' Pages: African American Women's Magazines and the Culture That Made Them


Beginning in the late nineteenth century, mainstream magazines established ideal images of white female culture, while comparable African American periodicals were cast among the shadows. Noliwe M. Rooks's Ladies' Pages sheds light on the most influential African American women's magazines--Ringwood's Afro-American Journal of Fashion, Half-Century Magazine for the Colored Homemaker, Tan Confessions, Essence, and O, the Oprah Magazine--and their little-known success in shaping the lives of black women. Ladies' Pages demonstrates how these rare and thought-provoking publications contributed to the development of African American culture and the ways in which they in turn reflect important historical changes in black communities. What African American women wore, bought, consumed, read, cooked, and did at home with their families were all fair game, and each of the magazines offered copious amounts of advice about what such choices could and did mean. At the same time, these periodicals helped African American,women to find work and to develop a strong communications network. Rooks reveals in detail how these publications contributed to the concepts of black sexual identity, rape, migration, urbanization, fashion, domesticity, consumerism, and education. Her book is essential reading for everyone interested in the history and culture of African Americans.


Half-Century was not an impressive publication. But it stands
among those general-purpose magazines that reflected and guided,
to some extent, the newly developing ethos of black Americans
caught up in the drama of the new century, the world war, and
migration from the South into the industrial, urban Midwest.

Walter Daniel

SOMEONE once told me this book is really a detective story, or maybe even a mystery. This is how I know I have told one too many tales about my efforts to track down the publications that form the basis for this project. I do not think they were suggesting there are holes in the narrative that require them to go sleuthing for the connections that lead to intellectual clarity. Nor do I believe they meant this manuscript reads like a mystery. But because I secretly like thinking about this project in the same way, I have never asked the person to tell me why they thought as they did. It has left me free to create my own interpretation.

I think of this book as a mystery not because there is a whodunit embedded in the analysis and discussion of the magazines written about here, nor because I still make the connection between the thrill of a good mystery’s unfolding and the warm chill I felt when I first laid hands and eyes on the magazines for which I had searched for so many years. No, I like to think of this book as a mystery because, since I was in middle school and . . .

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