Black Women’s Hair Throughout History

"I am not this hair. I am not this skin. I am the soul that lies within." - India Arie.

This video explores the rich history of the hair styles of black women throughout the 20th century in western societies, all with cultural impacts and meanings that go far beyond the surface.

In the 1600s, slavery was at its most brutal. During this time, head shaving was one of the cruel indignities slaves had to face at the hands of the white man, which was done to remove any aspect of individuality or identity. In the 1700s, a law was passed in America that required black women to cover their hair with a scarf to indicate class, and in the 1800s, those enslaved would use kitchen grease and carding tools to care for their damaged hair.

Approaching the 1900s, and the civil rights movement, black women still felt it necessary to change their hair for the white population, applying toxic chemicals to lighten and straighten it in order to assimilate. During the 20th century, new styles emerged and trends resurfaced, from wigs to braids, shaved heads to afros, and dreadlocks to cornrows. The rest is history.


Read more No Hair, Don't Care!


Video by Boldly

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Ruth MacGilp, 20, UK. Fashion Communication Student and Fashion Blogger.
Edinburgh Website