The Miss America pageant began in 1921 as a beauty contest held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. However, it wasn’t until 1983 that an African American woman, Vanessa Williams, won the crown. Unfortunately, her reign was tarnished by scandal.
It was on this day, July 23rd, in 1984 that Vanessa Williams surrendered her crown because of photos she had taken before her pageant days.
Williams was not only the first African American woman to become Miss America, but she was also the first Miss America to receive death threats and hate mail. When unauthorized photos of her were published, Williams was pressured to step down. Her successor and the first runner-up of the pageant, Suzette Charles, was also African-American.