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Black Women´S Hair Throughout History And Their Identity

2230 words - 9 pages

There have been musicals, documentaries, researches, panel discussions and even talk shows about hair, hair qualities and hairstyles, even Oprah Gail Winfrey chose hair for the magazine's September 2013 theme. According to Adlman (2013), Oprah Winfrey in a video interview said,
Women, we have issues with our hair, [Black women's] hair represents the first thing anyone sees of them, or of ourselves, and so we identify with what our hair looks like.
On history of Black hair:
Hair Story by Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps (2002) is an entertaining concise survey that follows a mostly sequential path which begins in Africa and ends in America. It details the roots of black hair care in America, from centuries ago to the modern day, outlining how much hair truly signifies in much of African culture.
“Ever since African civilisations bloomed, hairstyles have been used to indicated a person’s marital status age, religion, ethnic identity, wealth and rank within the community” (2002:3)
The book is not just about history of black hair. It contains quotes and information from a huge wealth of black hair resources, as well as political context of black hair styles and textures and why black hair comes in so many different textures.
On styling of black hair:
In Hair Story (2002), the authors write about some of black hair style, include the West African manner of wearing their hair in braid or wrap to the current and most popular hair styles: weaves, natural hair and chemical hair straightening by black people- a style considered as imitating "white" hairstyles. Byrd and Tharps (2010)
".... the goal of grooming the hair had morphed from the elaborate and symbolic designs of Africa into an imitation of White styles adapted to Black kinks and curls. Both women and men were interested in straightening their hair because straight European hair was held up as the beauty ideal"
This brings us to ‘Good Hair’, a 2009 documentary by Chris Rock that examine what the ongoing pursuit of ‘good’ hair says about African-American cultural identity and the hair-care industry. It investigated and reveal why black people across the ages have subjected themselves to sometimes dangerous, often painful practices in the pursuit of beautiful hair. It also looks into the dangers of many common hair-straightening treatments and reveals the alarmingly high cost of having ‘good’ hair.
The social and psychology aspect of hair was delved in by the authors of Hair Story (2010), Tharps and Byrd note, since the beginning of African civilizations
"hairstyles have been used to indicate a person's marital status, age, religion, ethnic identity, wealth, and rank within the community.... The hairstyle also served as an indicator of a person's geographic origins".
At the same time in, The Politics of Black Women's Hair (Prince, 2010) sensitively tables Black women's journeys with their hair: how it is perceived, judged, and graded on the yardstick of mainstream society's criterions of beauty....

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