Skin color has been used as a toll of separation and preferential treatment within the Black community. Despite our preoccupation with skin color, skin tone, and shade, our definitions of what exactly makes someone light or dark skinned remains somewhat arbitrary and confusing.
Skin color has many different levels of symbolism for African Americans, and there exists a preponderance of colloquial terms used to describe their various shades of skin. These terms include skillet blonde, coal black, tar baby, and blue-black to describe dark skin; and red, red bone, high yellow, and light bright to describe light skin.
The purpose of the photo study was to examine the role of skin color (i.e., lightness- darkness), as it pertains to racial identity development theory and self-esteem among 100 Black people of various skin colors. The significant role that skin color plays in the lives of Blacks has been debated in the social-science literature for over 60 years. Historical and contemporary literature reveals that the skin color of African Americans has exerted powerful and persistent influences on societal attitudes toward and treatment of Blacks, within both White and Black cultures.