Untitled (Kwame Brathwaite Self Portrait at AJASS Studios)

Remembering Kwame Brathwaite:
The MNN Producer, Photographer, and Activist Who Captured the Essence of the Black Is Beautiful Movement

Kwame Brathwaite, MNN Producer, renowned photographer, and cultural icon passed away on April 1, 2023, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire artists and activists alike. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, in 1938, Brathwaite was a self-taught photographer who became an integral part of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

Brathwaite is best known for his iconic photographs of the Black Is Beautiful movement, which aimed to redefine beauty standards for Black people and celebrate their natural hair and features. In the 1960s, Brathwaite and his brother, Elombe Brath, co-founded the African Jazz Arts Society and Studios, a cultural center that hosted events and exhibitions highlighting Black culture and identity.

Brathwaite's photographs of the models who participated in the "Grandassa Models" fashion shows became some of the most recognizable images of the Black Is Beautiful movement. His work helped to promote a sense of pride and self-love among Black people, and it continues to inspire artists and activists today.

In addition to his photography, Brathwaite was a community activist who worked tirelessly to promote Black culture and identity. He was a founding member of the National Association of Kawaida Organizations, which aimed to promote African-American culture and values, and he was also involved in various civil rights and anti-war movements.

Brathwaite was an active producer at MNN, producing a long-running show "Black Arts & Culture" and is fondly remembered for his presence during the hours he spent in the editing rooms at MNN's 59th St. location.

Kwame Brathwaite's contributions to the Black Is Beautiful movement and the broader Black Arts Movement were immeasurable, and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations of artists and activists.

Kwame Brathwaite – January 1, 1938 – April 1, 2023

The Kwame Brathwaite Archive

The New York Times Magazine: The Photographer Who Captured the Beauty in Blackness (no paywall)

MNN Producer Lia Chang featured the 2023 exhibit "Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite at New-York Historical Society" on her program "Backstage Pass with Lia Chang." 

Top photo: "Untitled (Kwame Brathwaite Self Portrait at AJASS Studios)," 1964 c., printed 2016. Archival pigment print, mounted and framed. Courtesy of The Kwame Brathwaite Archive 

Special Thanks to the Philip Martin Gallery.