The Dress Codes of Respectability

Well-dressed Black activists were not trying to impress White people

People at the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C. Photo: Warren K. Leffler via the Library of Congress

A 2020 South Carolina march against police violence had a dress code. The organizers asked that demonstrators “come in dress attire, please”. Later, they boasted that the thousands-strong crowd had been “fully adorned in their Sunday best.” Not everyone was impressed. Many thought the dress…