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Cheryl Browne was the first African-American contestant as Miss Iowa in 1970.
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Cheryl Browne was the first African-American contestant as Miss Iowa in 1970.

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Early Miss America pageants, to say the least, lacked any sort of ethnic diversity. In fact, the pageant actually had a rule - Rule 7 - that required: "Contestants must be of good health and of the white race."

That rule remained in effect until 1950, although in 1948 Miss Hawaii Yun Tau Zane became the pageant's first Asian contestant while Miss Puerto Rico Irma Nydia Vasquez became the first Hispanic to vie for the rhinestone tiara.

Prior to that, Miss America 1945 Bess Myerson made headlines when she became the first Jewish woman to win the Miss America title.

The first African-American contestant to come to Atlantic City was Miss Iowa 1970 Cheryl Browne, and in 1983 Vanessa Williams made history when she became the first black woman to win the Miss America crown.

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