The message behind black hair

The message behind black hair

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – Hairstyles that have become popular in the black community have a deep history dating back centuries. Black hair comes in many different textures and styles, but black hair goes beyond looks.

Hairstyles have a rich history dating back centuries. In Africa, before colonialism, hair was a status symbol, according to FAMU history professor Yanela Mcleod.

Hairstyles that have become popular in the black community have a deep history dating back...
Hairstyles that have become popular in the black community have a deep history dating back centuries.(Photo: WCTV/Graphic: Jamiya Coleman)

The professor said the way women curled or colored their hair was entirely associated with the culture of Africa’s homelands.

Africans were torn from their culture during the transatlantic slave trade. Millions of Africans were trafficked to North America. Hair then became linked to survival.

“The women may have taken grain or rice with them and braided it into their hair because they didn’t know where it was going, but they knew they needed food,” Mcleod said.

During slavery, cornrows were used to create maps for escaping plantations, Mcleod said. Cornrows are braids made in patterns close to the scalp. Black women wove or braided their hair to chart directions leading to freedom or safe spaces for slaves.

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Over the decades, black hair has continued to evolve. However, some popular styles like dreadlocks, Bantu knots, and braids are not considered professional. Black people have faced discrimination because of their natural hair, including Curls for Queens founder Mikayla Fedd.

“Compared to when I have braids and I have to find a way to put my hair in a bun and make sure it looks professional or when I have my afro and I’m nervous because I don’t know how I’m going to present it to someone interviewing me,” Fedd said. “That may not be the case in other communities.”

In the face of discrimination and pressures to conform, natural hairstyles have become more accepted by society and this is partly due to the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The law prohibits racial discrimination based on hair texture and hairstyles like dreads and braids in the workplace and in public schools, according to the CROWN coalition.

“I applaud these pioneers who are going to create spaces for black people to exist naturally in all their beauty, their identity, their glory and so I think the CROWN Act is part of that,” Mcleod said.

Whatever the hairstyle, hairstyle is much more than style.

“Even if it’s straight or there are extensions, these are sculptures that just reflect how they feel, that reflect their personal identity and their cultural pride,” Mcleod said.

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