When you think of figures from the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X, Corretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr., Nina Simone, and James Baldwin probably come to mind. None of these figures graced the cover of Vogue or any other high fashion magazines, but they did gain notoriety during their individual fights for equality.
While we appreciate the many doors that have been opened for us, as lovers of fashion, it doesn’t take long for one to realize that while we are so enthralled with all that these figures accomplished during the Civil Rights Movement, we mustn’t forget to pay homage to their keen and fabulous fashion sense.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
You can’t talk about the Civil Rights Movement without talking about Martin Luther King Jr. as one of the most prominent African Americans to step up to fight for equality for Blacks during the era. Many of us can remember his legendary speeches, but how about how he did it all in a nicely pressed suit and tie.
Malcolm X; the activist in a skinny tie. He challenged Martin Luther King Jr.’s strategy of nonviolence during the Civil Rights Movement. Malcolm X also discouraged integration with white America and encouraged his followers to defend themselves against racial aggression and violence. When it came to speaking to the public without fear or filter, Malcolm X was one of the leaders during this movement that did just that with an effortless, fashion forward style.
Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King was definitely considered the epitome of elegance for African American women during the 50s and 60s. As the wife of MLK Jr., Coretta was not one to just sit on the sideline and play her role as solely a wife. Her courage to be an outspoken woman with flared dresses and perfectly styled hair, along with her and husband’s fight for equality made them both true fashion icons with a purpose!
While Malcolm X believed in attaining equality by any means possible, including the use of violence, and MLK Jr. encouraged folks to not fight violence with violence, James Baldwin fell somewhere in between with his beliefs, but not in his sense of fashion. Baldwin who was both a novelist and a poet, did not believe in a divided America. He believed that, “We should all live together as brothers and sisters.” His style was very artsy with mixed prints, big sunglasses and wide collars.
Some knew Nina Simone as a singer, songwriter, and pianist. However, there are many who forget her role as a fashionable Civil Rights activist during the 1960s. Known as the “Black Nubian Queen”, through her music, Simone addressed controversial issues and racial inequalities with style and grace. Some even felt that her role in the Civil Rights Movement ultimately overshadowed her music career. We, on the other hand, are simply in awe of the black girl magic Simone possessed to do it all, and with so much style, at that. We’ll never forget her statement jewelry and unique head wraps.
Who are some of the Civil Rights leaders that you think had effortless fashion sense in the midst of fighting a war against brutality, inequality, and injustice?
Written By: Dani Elle Moore