19-year-old Bailey who became famous thanks to Beyonce said it was a “dream come true” to play the role.
She tweeted a cartoon image of the princess in which the traditionally red-headed Ariel has dark skin, brown eyes and black hair.
After an extensive search, Bailey was casted by director Rob Marshall who praised her for her “rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and substance – plus a glorious singing voice”.
Fans responded positively on Twitter when the news broke on social media.
“If your Egyptian adaptations (actually historical) can be white people, Ariel (a fictional character) can be black,” wrote one Twitter user, @NiceNurse22.
In cartoon films, Ariel is portrayed as pale-skinned like most Disney princesses and is voiced by white actress Jodi Benson.
Disney came under fire last year for whitewashing Princess Tiana in cartoon movie Ralph Breaks The Internet, hastily redrawing the character with darker features just months before the film was aired.
More than two decades after Disney casted black singer Brandy as Cinderella in a 1997 live-action film, this is another instance where a black actress is casted in a Disney cartoon movie.
As part of Atlanta-based sister duo Chloe x Halle, Bailey received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist last year. The sisters covered Beyonce’s song Pretty Hurts in 2013 which led to Beyonce becoming their mentor after she discovered them.
Chloe x Halle were signed onto Beyonce’s label thereafter and she took them on tour in 2016.
Michelle Obama is a big fan; turned on to their music by daughters Sasha and Malia.
The Little Mermaid is one of the many live-action Disney remakes that is being released including the recent Aladdin.