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Studio: Block Starz Music Television
In 1967, J. Morris Anderson, an African-American businessman from Philadelphia, was inspired to create Miss Black America after his daughters both said they wanted to be Miss America when they grew up. However, Black women were excluded from the Miss America competition — even after a rule barring non-white contestants was abolished in 1950.
Anderson’s idea was to stage a well-financed Miss Black America contest on the same night, at the same time, and directly across the street from the predominately-white Miss America Pageant.
The widely-publicized inaugural pageant was held as a counter-event on August 17, 1968 at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlantic City, where Saundra Williams of Philadelphia was crowned the first Miss Black America.
The Miss Black America pageant quickly blossomed into a prestigious annual celebration of African-American women, lavishly showcasing the most beautiful, intelligent, and talented young black women from around the country. The competition continued to grow in popularity throughout the 1970s, reaching its peak in September of 1977 when NBC broadcaster, Billy Dee Williams, hosted the pageant live, one day before CBS’s telecast of the Miss America pageant.