The Price of Beauty

“The Price of Beauty” - Lynn Eusan


She looked different from the other University of Houston homecoming queen candidates. She didn’t have white skin, and her hair didn’t fall down to her shoulders. Her skin was mahogany, and she wore her hair in a majestic Afro that formed a halo around her head.

It was 1968, and Lynn Eusan was 20 years old when she made history as the first African American Homecoming Queen at my alma mater. There were only 1,000 Black Students on campus, and most the Greek Organizations were still segregated. There was very little, if any, interaction between black groups and white groups. Through the joint efforts of blacks and other minority students at the University of Houston, they banded together against overwhelming odds to get Eusan elected Homecoming Queen. Eusan received numerous death threats, and Fraternities held minstrel shows in black face to mock her candidacy.

Eusan had helped to form the student organization “African-Americans for Liberation”, led protests to establish an African-American Studies Department, and marched to demand the hiring of more Black Faculty and Staff on campus. She was a human rights activist, journalist, photographer, and volunteered in Houston’s economically challenged Third Ward black neighborhood.

A year after her graduation from U of H, she was abducted from a bus stop, trying to make it home during hurricane weather. On September 10th, 1971, Eusan was found dead, with multiple stab wounds, in the back of a car that had crashed into a police car. The driver said he had found her, still alive, and was rushing her to the hospital. He was charged and then acquitted. Her murder remains unsolved.

In 1977, I was elected Black Student Union President, a grandchild organization of Lynn Eusan’s “African-Americans for Liberation”. I took African-American Studies classes that she helped establish. There were only 1,700 Black students out of 32,000 students when I attended U of H, a miniscule increase in numbers from when Eusan was a student. We formed powerful campus coalitions to defy the still largely segregated white Sororities and Fraternities, electing an African-American student body President, and two African-American Homecoming Queens.

Distressed “Princess” dress, altered boys cotton dress shirt, recycled vanity drawer, vintage purse, Cotton Fabric from U.S. and Ghana, hand painted and hand dyed fabrics, vintage and new buttons, glass beads, African Trade Beads, nails, embroidery thread, archival fabric pens, acrylic paint, found objects, soil from U.S. and Ghana, rafia, watercolor paper, photo transfers.