If you want to offend me, touch my hair. If you wish to taste my wrath tell me one more time; just one more time, tell me to fix my hair one last time! My friends tell me to “fix my hair” by fix they mean straighten, texturize or weave it. My question to them is: How do I fix something that is not broken?
For years, black people; especially women have the misconception that beauty means red perky lips, light skin tone and long straight hair. This sad doctrine was brought about due to the introduction of slavery. Before that, in the 1400’s African or black beauty varied according to the traditions and looks of the various tribes. Nappy, curly or dreadlocks African hair was a symbol, it represented identity, it meant that you belonged. Social status, wealth, age, marital status, ethnicity and religion were some of the things one could depict from the type of hairstyle someone wore. Cornrows, weaving, rolling, mud and clay were techniques used to accomplish these elaborate hair styles which took either hours or days to accomplish; the women used these occasion as an opportunity to socialize and form bonds with each other.
In 1619 the first slaves were brought to Jamestown, America to work on the plantation. Due to horrific, unhygienic conditions on the slave ship they were unable to groom or maintain their hair, therefore the majority of them had thick heads of hair which started turning into dreadlocks. In the 1700s white plantation owners started referring to the slave’s hair as “wool” since the texture resembles sheep’s coat, this was also done to belittle them. In some cases both male and female slaves had their heads shaved bald; this knowingly was a major insult to many tribes, it was considered as the “unspeakable crime”, the plantation owners used this as a system of control. These captives were being stripped of their identity, there were made to believe that the acceptable level of beauty was that of their European owner’s complexion or hair texture and having nappy hair with dark skin meant that you were extremely unattractive. The slaves who had the “better quality hair” went for better prices at auctions. This mentality of belief then went on from generation to generation as slavery persisted.
Without the convenience of the materials they had in Africa to maintain their hair, women resorted to using butter, kerosene and sheep’s brush to enhance their looks.
These elaborate hairstyles lured the attention of the slave owners and made their white wives’ extremely jealous therefore in 1789, African women were forced to tie or wrap their hair with fabric to conceal it. The law was known as “ Tignon Law” in Louisiana.
The hot comb was invented by Annie Malone, a French woman. By 1895 this new invention was made available to America, African women took advantage of this new technology so they would be able to “fit” into the bracket of beauty. Slavery was abolished in 1865, it was easier for past slaves who had hair textures closer to the European’s to get job in comparison with their nappy counterparts. By 1909 the hair straightener was invented by G.A. Morgan, long straight hair became the norm of the day for Afro-American’s. With the increasing trend also came a cry for Africans to find their identity by embracing their natural hair. Popular persons such as Marcus Garvey (1920), Haile Selassie (who encourage the Rastafarian movement after he was crowned emperor in 1930) Bob Marley and many others.
In 1964 a permanent chemical hair straightener for men and women was invented, this was different because it can be easily applied at home.
Around the late 1950s a group of young ladies broke the long, straight hair trend and introduced the “afro”. From this date onward a vast amount of knowledge has increased, hence more and more African decedents have reverted back to wearing their natural hair. There are popular bloggers such as Chime, Curly Nikki and so much others who make daily post encouraging women to take care of their natural hair from the basics. If you have not learned to accept the natural coils your ancestors passed on to you, now it the time to that. Remember….those coils hold years or history…..and your past defines who you are….what are you going to do about your identity?