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African American Hair: A Head Full of History

Updated on November 24, 2017

Hair Through History

From Africa to America, a black person's hair has always been a topic of debate and discussion.
From Africa to America, a black person's hair has always been a topic of debate and discussion. | Source

African American Hairstory

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Egyptian shaved their heads to survive the hot climate they lived in. Wigs were a way for Ancient Egyptians.In Africa, a hairstyles's more than just to being fashionable. A person's hairstyle symbolized some one's social rank in the village. Europeans shaved the hair off captured Africans head to get rid of their culture and heritage.According to laws in the United States, required free African American women cover their "wool" when they out in public.Madame C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) because the first African American woman to become a self made millionaire. Her hair care products was known as The Walker System.African American straightened out their hair with a homemade substance called congolene or conk for short. It was made up of eggs,lye, and potatoes. Actress Cicely Tyson was not just the first American actress to appear as a regular in a dramatic, but natual hairstyle on the 1963 television show East Side West Side gained a lot of attention as well. The Black Is Beautiful movement of the 1960s and 1970s ushered in the Afro. African Americans were also braiding their hair in West African patterns.Black is not the only thing that's beautiful. Model Pat Evans wore her head bald because she was against the fashion industry's obsession with hair.Invented by Robert William Redding (Jheri Redding) the Jheri curl was popular during the 1980s and early 1990s.Before the hi-top fade came fashionable among rappers, Grace Jones sported this style on hair 1980 album Warm Leatherette.The Recession of 2008 caused a decline in hair relaxer sales.  African Americans embraced their natural hair. There video tutorials, blogs and websites dedicated to natural hair.
Egyptian shaved their heads to survive the hot climate they lived in. Wigs were a way for Ancient Egyptians.
Egyptian shaved their heads to survive the hot climate they lived in. Wigs were a way for Ancient Egyptians. | Source
In Africa, a hairstyles's more than just to being fashionable. A person's hairstyle symbolized some one's social rank in the village.
In Africa, a hairstyles's more than just to being fashionable. A person's hairstyle symbolized some one's social rank in the village. | Source
Europeans shaved the hair off captured Africans head to get rid of their culture and heritage.
Europeans shaved the hair off captured Africans head to get rid of their culture and heritage. | Source
According to laws in the United States, required free African American women cover their "wool" when they out in public.
According to laws in the United States, required free African American women cover their "wool" when they out in public. | Source
Madame C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) because the first African American woman to become a self made millionaire. Her hair care products was known as The Walker System.
Madame C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) because the first African American woman to become a self made millionaire. Her hair care products was known as The Walker System. | Source
African American straightened out their hair with a homemade substance called congolene or conk for short. It was made up of eggs,lye, and potatoes.
African American straightened out their hair with a homemade substance called congolene or conk for short. It was made up of eggs,lye, and potatoes. | Source
Actress Cicely Tyson was not just the first American actress to appear as a regular in a dramatic, but natual hairstyle on the 1963 television show East Side West Side gained a lot of attention as well.
Actress Cicely Tyson was not just the first American actress to appear as a regular in a dramatic, but natual hairstyle on the 1963 television show East Side West Side gained a lot of attention as well. | Source
The Black Is Beautiful movement of the 1960s and 1970s ushered in the Afro. African Americans were also braiding their hair in West African patterns.
The Black Is Beautiful movement of the 1960s and 1970s ushered in the Afro. African Americans were also braiding their hair in West African patterns. | Source
Black is not the only thing that's beautiful. Model Pat Evans wore her head bald because she was against the fashion industry's obsession with hair.
Black is not the only thing that's beautiful. Model Pat Evans wore her head bald because she was against the fashion industry's obsession with hair. | Source
Invented by Robert William Redding (Jheri Redding) the Jheri curl was popular during the 1980s and early 1990s.
Invented by Robert William Redding (Jheri Redding) the Jheri curl was popular during the 1980s and early 1990s. | Source
Before the hi-top fade came fashionable among rappers, Grace Jones sported this style on hair 1980 album Warm Leatherette.
Before the hi-top fade came fashionable among rappers, Grace Jones sported this style on hair 1980 album Warm Leatherette. | Source
The Recession of 2008 caused a decline in hair relaxer sales.  African Americans embraced their natural hair. There video tutorials, blogs and websites dedicated to natural hair.
The Recession of 2008 caused a decline in hair relaxer sales. African Americans embraced their natural hair. There video tutorials, blogs and websites dedicated to natural hair. | Source

A History Within Itself

When comes to hairstyles, African American hair has a history within itself. From Africa to the United States, hairstyles were more than just being fashionable and trendy. It's all about making a political statement and big business. Since it's has smaller and tighter curls than other human races, it could be a thing of ridicule as well.

Africa. Ancient Egyptians were known for wearing wigs. The modern hairstyles we wear today are influenced by the Ancient Egyptians. Depending on a person's tribe, a hairstyle symbolized one's identity. It was a symbol of a person's age, social rank, martial status, etc .They had access to Shea butter and combs. Braiding hair was a social activity among ranging from children to elders.

Enslavement in the United States. The Africans slave lost their culture, language and elaborate hairstyles by the time they survived the middle passage . Heads were shaven to dehumanize them and erase where they came from. Their were also laws that required women you cover their hair in scarfs because that were not allowed to wear their hair out in public. In fact, an enslaved person was not considered hair on their head at all. Their was considered as "wool" because of it's coily, kinky appearance. Since the slaves did not have access Shea butter, they had to use bacon grease to moisturize their hair.

Emancipation. After the Civil War ended in 1865, African Americans had gained access to hair straighteners such as a pressing combs. Straighten hair was considered more socially acceptable because the newly emancipated African Americans were trying to fit the dominant white society ideals of beauty.

Civil Rights Movement. By the time the Civil Rights Movement arrived, African Americans began to embrace their natural texture by wearing a hairstyle known as an Afro. It was a symbol liberation from European beauty standards. The late 1970s-early 1980s era brought in beads and braids. The no-lye relaxer was another invention during the this time as well. It chemical are not as harsh as previous relaxers.

Present Day. By the 1980s, an emerging new music form know as hip hop brought a variety of hair trends. The hi-top fade was a well known hairstyle for rappers. The Jheri curl was another trend worn by Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Stony Jackson, etc. Natural hair become embraced the 2010s. Poems are being written about it, songs are sung about it, and is being blogged about.

Weather influenced by music trends or political climate, African American has always been a topic of debate and controversy. It's a connection to one's roots. Basically, it's a head full of history.

African American hairstyles

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