Beth Parkes

Beth Parkes

Department of History
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: Skin Deep: Beauty and Skin Colour in the Black Atlantic, 1960-85 
SupervisorProfessor Gavin Schaffer, Dr Sadiah Qureshi and Dr Michell Chresfield
PhD History


I am a cultural historian of race and diasporic communities in twentieth century Britain, United States and the Caribbean. My research also encompasses broader themes of activism, beauty, gender, and power. Using oral histories and multi-archival research, my current project focusses on skin, beauty, and race in the Caribbean, United States and Britain from 1960-85. This period witnessed the golden age of suntanning, which saw the white-but-tanned bourgeois woman become the ‘ideal’ standard of beauty. This systematically marginalised women of colour, rendering the possibility of being seen as beautiful unreachable. Longstanding historical hauntings of colonialism, coupled with marginalisation through beauty practices, ideals, and products, saw the production and sales of skin tone creams soar from the 1930s onwards.

My thesis examines how the Black is Beautiful movement and other Black feminist activist movements, intersected with transnational beauty practices among women of colour. As histories of skin and beauty have been neglected in a diasporic context, this project presents an investigation into the motivations of women’s beauty and make-up practices, and an analysis of transnational histories of race, seen through the lens of beauty.