6. The Hotel’s First Black Guest was Artist Barbara Chase-Riboud
When Barbara Chase stepped into the lobby of the Barbizon in the summer of 1956 she was stepping over two major cultural milestones. Chase was the first African American to be chosen for a much coveted spot in the guest editor program at Mademoiselle magazine and as a result, was to be housed in the Barbizon with the rest of the guest editors for a summer in New York City. Chase was likely the very first African American client to stay at the Barbizon.
Despite the barriers Chase broke down, her time at Mademoiselle and the Barbizon was largely unrecognized. As Bren writes in The Barbizon, “Barbara’s presence is never remarked on in the August 1956 issue. She is simply there.” It would take another five years for a Black woman to appear on the pages of a women’s fashion magazine in America. That honor would go to model Willete Murphy in 1961, but back in 1956, Chase was there. After her summer at the Barbizon and Mademoiselle, Chase took an internship at Charm magazine and eventually got a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. She would go on to become a renowned visual artist and award-winning writer with works featured at institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.