Thursday, March 26, 2009
History of Black Hair
1444: Europeans trade on the west coast of Africa with people wearing elaborate hairstyles including locks, plaits and twists.
1619: First slaves brought to Jamestown; African language, culture and grooming tradition begin to disappear.
1700s: Calling black hair "wool," many whites dehumanize slaves. The more elaborate African hairstyles cannot be retained.
1800s: Without the combs and herbal treatments used in Africa, slaves rely on bacon grease, butter and kerosene as hair conditioners and cleaners. Lighter-skinned, straight-haired slaves command higher prices at auction than darker, more kinky-haired ones. Internalizing color consciousness, blacks promote the idea that blacks with dark skin and kinky hair are less attractive and worth less.
1865: Slavery ends, but whites look upon black women who style their hair like white women as well-adjusted. "Good" hair becomes a prerequisite for entering certain schools, churches, social groups and business networks.
1880: Metal hot combs, invented in 1845 by the French, are readily available in the United States. The comb is heated and used to press and temporarily straighten kinky hair.
1900s: Madame C.J. Walker develops a range of hair care products for black hair. She popularizes the press and curl style. Some criticize her for encouraging black women to look white.
1910: Walker is featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the first American woman, self-made millionaire.
1920s: Marcus Garvey, a black nationalist, urges followers to embrace their natural hair and reclaim an African aesthetic.
1954: George E. Johnson launches the Johnson Products Empire with Ultra Wave Hair Culture, a "permanent" hair straightener for men that can be applied at home. A women's chemical straightener follows.
1962: Actress Cicely Tyson wears cornrows on the television drama "East Side/West Side."
1966: Model Pat Evans defies both black and white standards of beauty and shaves her head.
1968: Actress Diahann Carroll is the first black woman to star in a television network series, "Julia." She is a darker version of the all-American girl with straightened, curled hair.
1970: Angela Davis becomes an icon of Black Power with her large Afro.
1971: Melba Tolliver is fired from the ABC affiliate in New York for wearing an Afro while covering Tricia Nixon's wedding.
1977: The Jheri curl explodes on the black hair scene. Billed as a curly perm for blacks, the ultra moist hairstyle lasts through the 1980s.
1979: Braids and beads cross the color line when Bo Derek appears with cornrows in the movie "10."
1980: Model-actress Grace Jones sports her trademark flat top fade.
1988: Spike Lee exposes the good hair/bad hair light-skinned/dark-skinned schism in black America in his movie "School Daze."
1990: "Sisters love the weave," Essence magazine declares. A variety of natural styles and locks also become more accepted.
1997: Singer Erykah Badu poses on the cover of her debut album "Baduizm" with her head wrapped, ushering in an eclectic brand of Afrocentrism.
1998: Carson Inc., creator of Dark & Lovely and Magic Shave for black men, acquires black-owned beauty company Johnson Products of Chicago in 1998. L'Oreal purchases Carson two years later and merges it with Soft Sheen.
1999: People magazine names lock-topped Grammy award-winning artist Lauryn Hill one of its 50 Most Beautiful People.
2001: Rapper Lil' Kim wears a platinum blonde weave, while singer Macy Gray sports a new school Afro. Some black women perm, some press, others go with natural twists, braids and locks.
2006: Black hair care is a billion-dollar industry.
Queens: Portraits of Black Women and Their Fabulous Hair by George Alexander & Michael Cunningham