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Black History Month - Sunlight Beauty Academy

02/13/2014 09:15

Billie Holiday | About the Singer | American Masters | PBS

Sunlight Beauty Academy

 In 1937, a black couple could have been lynched if they were found to be learning a trade from a white professional. Though blacks could pay to take cosmetology exams, state licensing required teaching, and of course, neither was available. But that didn't stop a Miami couple, David and Lurel Julius and a white woman named Madam La France. The Julius' donned lab coats and illegally learned the art of beauty - from cold creams to lip gloss - from La France every night. The Julius' originally moved to Miami for opportunity and to live in a climate that would help Lurel, who was suffering from emphysema, survive. Their training was financed by the only black female millionaire in the city, Dane Dorsey, who had also given the couple lodging when they arrived in town. It was Dorsey who would finance the Sunlight Beauty Academy for the couple in Miami. The school would be the first black beauty school in the city and would educate black women from all over the country. Students were required to wear white uniforms, white shoes - polished daily - and stockings. Dorsey gave scholarships to women who couldn't pay Sunlight's $150 tuition for a seven-month, 1,200-hour course. The school was also a place where local black merchants could showcase their goods in the windows. The Sunlight Beauty Academy graduated 200 students per year. Though successful, the presence of the school caused racial tension. The locals would shove black women to the ground for looking "too pretty." But that didn't stop the academy. It would continue to thrive, gaining high-profile clients like Billie Holiday. As for David and Lurel Julius, they grew to open more cosmetology schools in Alabama, Georgia and Jamaica. 

By: Erica Taylor, The Tom Joyner Morning Show

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