The history of styling and manipulating our hair reflects the need to survive in a white supremacist society that hates us.
The word “nappy” is tied to the days of cotton and slavery. Our hair was thought to resemble the tufts of cotton, called “naps,” and the term was purposely degrading.
In colonial Louisiana, Black women’s hair was so beautiful and attractive to white men that it threatened the racial order.
So, “tignon laws” were made to ban Black women from showing their hair - but Black women still found ways to make headwraps beautiful and elaborate.
For decades, we were expected to straighten our hair to fit white beauty standards. Madame CJ Walker’s hot combs, pomades, and hair products revolutionized haircare and made her a millionaire. But straightening methods also damaged our hair, scalps, and psyches for decades.
During the Black Power movement, we rejected relaxers and hot combs, embracing more natural hairstyles to show political awareness, like Angela Davis.
We’ve also rocked the Jherri curl, dreadlocks, cornrows, and braids through the years.
Today, relaxers are no longer the wave, with sales of hair relaxers dropping by more than 25% in the last five years.
Thanks to the natural hair movement, our hair landscape is richer than ever - big chops, wigs, afros, braids, headwraps - reflecting today’s activism and Black Renaissance in arts and culture.