8 March 2012
Table of Contents
Evolution of Black Hair page 4-7 Slaverypage 4-5
Relaxers page 5-6 Civil Rights Era and Black Power Movements page 6 Transitioning and Natural Hair page 6-7 Weaves and Hair Extension Stigma page 7 Modern Times page 7-8 Conclusion page 9 Bibliography page 10-11
African-American, or Black, hair is very diverse. It ranges from extremely thin and straight, to extremely thick and curly. Throughout history, it could be seen as a gift and a curse. Hair in previous and modern times is seen as a sign of beauty, but all races are not always treated equally. Problems with identity and the struggle to conform caused many African-Americans to be ashamed of what they were born with. Even today, evidence of the struggles are still present. In the project we hope to learn how the views and opinions have changed throughout history. We would also like to educate others about African-American hair and inform them on the common misconceptions.
8 March 2012
The Evolution of African American Hair
African-American hair has a history as long as the term itself. From desperate attempts to cope to an inability to maintain, Africans and African-Americans, when it came to hair, were seemingly “forced” into hiding or altering their hair to conform to what society saw, at the time, as “normal”. What made life that much easier at the time, made it a struggle to break away from that dependence or constant attempt to be normal or to fit in. In a world today where individuality is just beginning to be embraced, people must look back in history to see where some of the stereotypes and feelings come from, so that they may understand why people do the things that they do. The first African slaves were brought into Jamestown in 1619, but soon after, African language, culture, and grooming habits began to disappear. Without the privilege of access to hair grooming tools, items like butter, kerosene, and bacon grease were used as conditioners and cleaners (Naturallycurly.com). These products were usually excess items that the slave owner, or master, didn’t use in his home. Pictures from this period would depict female Africans or African-Americas with scarves or cloth on their heads. Several sources say that they were symbols of enslavement and subordination. In fact, there were laws passed in the South that said female slaves must wear the head wraps. Other sources say that it was a misconstrued sign of rebellion, adapted from African culture (The African American Woman's Headwrap: Unwinding the Symbols). While the head wraps protected the hair from the elements and protected them from lice, they bonded them to slavery. With nothing to care for their hair, they covered it up to hide it. The pressure to change didn’t stop there. Slaves with lighter skin and straighter hair were worth more at auctions. This led many to believe that the slaves with darker skin and curlier hair were less attractive and worth less. Although several years after the end of slavery, skin bleaching products were...