ZORA
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ZORA

Black Debutantes Were Waltzing Long Before ‘Bridgerton’

It’s cotillion season

An archival photo of young African American women waiting to go downstairs for their debutante cotillion.
Photo: Cornelle Capa/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Poised and graceful, the young woman glides toward the gathered crowd, a who’s who of her community’s most influential personages. Her purposeful strides belie the butterflies in her stomach. She pauses intermittently to curtsy. With each demure bend, her diaphanous gown settles around her like a cloud, its pristine whiteness setting…

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