HISTORY OF BLACK HAIR: Hair is connected to many historical tribes, civilizations, movements, and the pain of African descent. Hair of the African American people were seen as a representation of age, religion, rank within their community, wealth, marital status, and even occupation within their culture. (Byrd and Tharps 2002). For instance, cornrows, they originated in Africa and Caribbean areas. Their very name indicates agriculture, planting, and labor that slaves had to endure. Like many other “Africanisms” in the new world, knowledge of African hairstyles survived the Middle Passage. Heads were often shaved upon capture, ostensibly for sanitary reasons, but with the psychological impact of being stripped of one’s culture. Re-establishing traditional hair styles in the new world was thus an act of resistance; one that could be carried out covertly. The shaving of the slaves head was done for the purpose to break that persons spirit to make it easier to control them. In the 1700s American slaves were often worked to death. There was little time for things like beautiful African hairstyles. So most women covered their hair in a rag. Not only to hide their undone hair but sometimes to even hide things like ringworm, which left places on your head where no hair would grow. Those who worked indoors were able to do their hair. For them braiding was common.
Before slavery, African American men and women wore and styled their hair with braids, shells, twists, beads, and a vast variety of different hairstyles. According to Byrd and Tharps in the article “Social networking sites: a support system for African-American women wearing natural hair”, the doing of the hair could range from many hours and sometimes even days to complete (Byrd and Tharps, 2002). For me, it represents my black culture. I never knew what my kind of hair stood for until about a year ago. It made me appreciate myself and my African heritage. African hair is also seen as a type of art form. In the West African tribe, Qua-Qua, the men cut off the locks of their wives hair, they then dried them red, plaited them, then affixed them to their own heads (Byrd, 2002, p.4). Another example would be Nigerian wives. These women were in polygamous marriages and sometimes wore their hair in a Kohin-Sorogum style. This certain style was meant to be seen from the back of it. It was a hairstyle that was used to insight jealousy from the other wives by indicating that one was turning her back on them (Byrd & Tharps, 2002). Also, in the Wolof culture young girls would partially shave their head to indicate that they were not of age for dating (Mosely 2004).