From Natural to Straight to Natural Again: The History of African American Hair
The Africans who were enslaved and brought to America wore their hair in natural styles. Braids, plaits, and twists in various styles were the norm. They used whatever they could find in the New World to soften and condition their hair when they could not readily find the ingredients or items that they used back home in Africa. Africans with loosely curled hair or straighter hair were celebrated, probably because their hair was more similar to their captors. In short, the slaves with straighter, silkier hair textures were allowed to work inside the slave owners’ homes, and they were often bought and sold at higher prices than slaves with kinkier hair.
Slaves with darker skin and kinky hair became less desirable than those with lighter skin and silky hair, and the slaves knew this. Many of us think that Madam C.J. Walker invented the hot comb in the 1800s, but that’s not true. The French invented the hot comb before Madame C.J., but she made her own version and promoted it. She fashioned a hot comb that could slide through thicker, curlier hair textures. Her design was created with African American people in mind, while the French’s design was probably more suited for people who had straighter hair. An online museum created in her honor states that Madame C.J. Walker, or Sarah Breedlove (she changed her name from Sarah Breedlove) began her business as a hair growing company. She created her products to help people who experienced hair loss.
Meanwhile, African American women sometimes pressed their hair and wore the straighter hair styles through about the 1960s, when naturally kinky textured hair become symbolic of black power, beauty, and strength. Afros, cornrows, and braids re-emerged as hairstyles of choice in the black community. The Civil Rights Movement encouraged African American to be proud of their skin color, hair, and self-worth.
Today, African Americans wear a variety of styles. Many African Americans like the flexibility and the look of bone-straight hair. Other African American people prefer natural styles, braids, twists, locks, plaits, or afros. Weaves and extensions are sometimes added to make the hair look fuller and longer.
African Americans have gone from wearing their hair in its natural state, to wearing straight styles, and back to natural styles again. Today we wear a variety of styles although there is a strong re-emergence of wearing natural hair. A growing number of women of African decent all over the globe are turning their backs on relaxers, straightening combs, flat irons, weaves, and braid extensions and are proudly celebrating the beauty of their unaltered, natural hair.
Author: Dianne Shaddock
|“Changing attitudes about natural hair” is what we do at Natural Haircare News. Through informative articles, podcasts and videos, we go beyond just sharing the latest advice and tips on kinky, curly, wavy haircare – We shake things up and focus on the realities of wearing our hair natural.|
You May Also Like:
- The Choice Is Yours
- Embracing Our Own Standard Of Beauty
- What’s All The Fuss About Natural Hair?
- An Historical Perspective on Black Hair In America
- Yes, I Stretch My Natural Hair – No Biggie…
- Afros: A Natural Hair Exhibit
- African Shea Butter from The Tree of Life
- Engage Your Daughter on Her Natural Hair Journey – Here’s How
- Smithsonian Event Grapples With Black Women’s Relationship With Our Hair
- Choosing A Natural Hairstylist
- NHCN Podcast 005: Embracing Our Own Standard of Natural Beauty
- Give Your Hair What It Deserves: 5 Natural Hair Care Tips
Explore Our Website!
Let’s Stay In Touch
What Others Are Saying
Natural Haircare Topics
- How Do You Know If You Have Scab Hair? Pictures
- 6 Tips for Controlling Frizz in Natural Hair
- The Finer Things In Life: Tips For Fine Hair Naturals!
- Combating Fairy Knots In Natural Hair, (Single Strand Knots)
- The LOC Method: 3 Steps For Happy, Moisture Rich, Natural Hair
- Mature Women and Natural Hair – A Photo Gallery
- Natural Haircare Training and Certification Available at a North Carolina Community College
- Transitioners Start Here
- Top 5 Sexy Natural Hairstyles: A Man’s Perspective
- Why Did Black Women Start Perming Their Hair In The First Place