PHILADELPHIA — Former Miss America contestant and Brigantine resident Brittany Lewis was crowned Miss Black America on Saturday at the Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center.
Lewis, a 2008 Holy Spirit High School graduate, was a Girl Scout and dancer growing up. She attended Temple University, where she studied broadcast, telecommunications and mass media and was an African American Studies major.
She went on to receive a graduate degree in education from Wilmington University, where she graduated with a 4.0 grade point average.
She is currently a Ph.D. student in the History Department at George Washington University. Her research interests include 20th-century African-American history, cross-cultural solidarity movements, and city-suburb formation.
She is also the chairperson of the George Washington University branch of the DC History Graduate Student Association, a member of the Black Graduate Student Association, and of the American Historical Association and Association of Black Women Historians.
She also teaches Ethnic Studies at Wilmington University.
A first runner-up in the Miss Delaware competition in 2014, she was given the crown and the chance to compete in the Miss America Competition after it was ruled the winner was too old to hold the title as Miss Delaware.
Her platform at the time focused on domestic-violence awareness — a cause she said she took up after the death of her older sister, Gina Nicole Clarke Lewis, in a domestic-violence incident in 2010.
Lewis said that while she loved her time with the Miss America Organization, her decision to compete in the Miss Black America was important because it celebrates black black culture and identity unapologetically.
Miss Black America also gives Lewis the chance to further promote her platform of spreading awareness of domestic violence.
It's also an opportunity to tell her sister's story.
She has a three-part program that she follows with the platform: communication, education, and legislation.
Over the past several years, she has traveled to high schools and colleges on the east coast to discuss healthy relationships with students.
She has also worked with the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Delaware Department of Justice, and former Delaware Governor Jack Markell.
She plans to continue spreading awareness in her new home in Washington D.C.
The Miss Black America competition was founded as a result of the notorious “rule No. 7” added to the Miss America rule book in 1930. It stated, “Contestants must be of good health, and the white race.”
A Philadelphia businessman, who was black and whose two young daughters wanted to grow up to be Miss America, founded the pageant.
The Miss Black America organization held its first pageant on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk in 1968 on the same night as Miss America, down the street from Boardwalk Hall at the Ritz-Carlton Atlantic City.
The next year, 1969, Madison Square Garden Productions televised it.
Today, the Miss Black America organization is still going strong and has held events in Philadelphia, Indiana and Montego Bay, Jamaica. It has been held in Philadelphia recently, which is where Lewis was crowned last weekend.
Young girls and women of color ages 9 to 29 were welcome in the competition. It grew to include Little Miss Black America and Teen Miss Black America categories. They are judged on speech, talent, style and poise.