Hair means commodity different to each of us, but Black hair has a uniquely meaningful history as a symbol of survival, resistance and festivity. It’s been applied as a tool of oppression and also one of commission — and our society’s comprehensions of Black hair still impact how Black people are treated moment.
Then are six effects to know and appreciate about the rich artistic, aesthetic and social history of Black hair.
1. Hair was a sacred artistic and spiritual symbol in ancient African societies.
Ancient African communities fashioned their hair for further than just style. Throughout the mainland, a person’s haircut could tell you a lot about who they were and where they came from. In the book Hair Story Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, authors Ayana Byrd and LoriL. Tharps explain that lacings and other intricate hairstyles were historically worn to signify connubial status, age, religion, wealth and rank in society. From lords ’ ornate rounded lacings to special hats worn by new maters , these styles had deep artistic and literal roots.
Hair was also allowed to be a source of particular and spiritual power. As the most elevated part of the body, some communities believed it connected them with the godly. In Yoruba culture, for illustration, people would pleat their hair to shoot dispatches to the gods.
2. Slave dealers shaved the heads of all African people
they captured the first step in a process of systemic culture and identity erasure.
During the transatlantic slave trade, an estimated 12 million African men, women and children were abducted and vended into slavery. One of the first effects the slave dealers did to the people they captured was shave off their hair. Considering the strong spiritual and artistic significance of hair in Africa, it was a particularly dehumanizing act, intended to strip away their connection to their societies.
When their hair grew back, they no longer had access to the herbal treatments, canvases and combs from their motherland. black Hair that was formerly was formerly a source of pride and expression of identity was frequently put away away beneath cloth to cover rough, involved permanents and shield them from hours spent toiling under the sun. With limited tools and time to watch for their hair, people got creative with what they had at their disposal — counting on bacon grease, adulation and kerosene as conditioners, cornmeal as dry soap and lamb coat carding tools as combs.
3. Black Hair texture and styling played an important part in the survival of enslaved Black people.
Texturism, the belief that certain black hair patterns are better than others, came wide during the period of slavery. The texture of an enslaved person’s hair could determine their value and working conditions, which in turn might impact their overall health, comfort and chances for freedom.
Eurocentric beauty norms mandated that coily black hair and dark skin were monstrous and inferior; “ good hair ” was characterized by straighter, further European features. Lighter- barked, straighter– haired slaves were favored and named for further desirable positions in the house, so numerous slaves would go to dangerous lengths to unbend their hair, using hot adulation shanks or chemicals that burned their skin. This dangerous intelligence of “ good hair ” and “ bad hair ” has been passed down for generations, and it still influences numerous people’s perception of natural Black hair moment.
lacings also converted into a tool for slaves looking to escape to freedom. Because drawing or writing directions was parlous( and frequently delicate with little to no education), they would cornrow their hair to collude escape routes, platting the plats into patterns that recalled roads to travel or avoid. Small bits of gold and seeds were hidden in the lacings to sustain them after their escape.