Carlton Mackey, Creator of 50 Shades of Black

Carlton Mackey

Carlton Mackey is an artist and the creator of 50 Shades of Black, a grassroots empowerment campaign

Combining the arts with personal stories, 50 Shades of Black explores the complex relationship between sexuality and skin tone in the formation of Black identity. 50 Shades of Black is one of four signature projects of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE ™ , an enterprise for social transformation, created by Carlton Mackey.

Carlton works as well as the Assistant Director of the D. Abbott Turner Program in Ethics and Servant Leadership and the Director of the Ethics & the Arts Program for the Emory University Center for Ethics. Mackey is an advocate for the arts and believes in its power to bring about positive social change.

He serves on the Board of Directors for the Wonderroot Community Arts Center and Grammy U. He is also an advocate for youth and serves on the advisory boards of the Youth Theological Initiative and Forever family, an Atlanta non-profit supporting youth with one or more incarcerated parents.

Carlton Mackey is also a professional photographer and local filmmaker. He was awarded a grant from the Emory University Center for Creativity and the Arts to create a photography exhibit to accompany his documentary 17 DEGREES AIN’T NOTHING, an intimate profile of five individuals living on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. For this work, Mackey was awarded the very first Creativity and the Arts Award by the Emory University Center for Creativity & the Arts. In 2013, Mackey was awarded Emory University’s Award of Distinction.

50 Shades of Black

In 2012 Carlton Mackey created 50 Shades of Black. 50 Shades of Black is a multi-faceted platform for creating an interactive global dialogue around issues of race, skin tone, sexuality and identity. Exploring these themes through visual art, literature, curated blogs, educational curriculums, and workshops, 50 Shades of Black aims to explore the ways in which our individual experiences of race and sexuality give rise to the formation of our unique and complex identities.

In the Summer of 2013 Mackey published the 120 page book 50 Shades of Black Vol.1, the first volume of a three volume series of coffee table books comprised of contributions from people all over the world in the form of scholarly essays, personal narratives, poems, photographs, paintings, and other artistic contributions.

What is 50 Shades of Black?


At 50 Shades of Black, we hope to offer a deeper & more nuanced understanding of this diverse spectrum of black identity. It is in the recognition of this diversity that 50 Shades of Black also acknowledges both the historical ways in which race and gender have been constructed and the role that skin tone and sexuality play in shaping the way we engage the world, how we perceive beauty, and how we understand our own self-worth.


50 Shades of Black is one of four signature projects of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE ™ , an enterprise for social transformation, created by Carlton Mackey.

I Love Ancestry is a global issue advocacy campaign that explores identity, diversity, heritage and culture, highlighting the experiences of marginalized people and Indigenous communities around the world.

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