Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America

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St. Martin's Publishing Group, Apr 15, 2014 - Social Science - 272 pages

Two world wars, the Civil Rights movement, and a Jheri curl later, Blacks in America continue to have a complex and convoluted relationship with their hair. From the antebellum practice of shaving the head in an attempt to pass as a "free" person to the 1998 uproar over a White third-grade teacher's reading of the book Nappy Hair, the issues surrounding African American hair continue to linger as we enter the twenty-first century.

Hair Story is a historical and anecdotal exploration of Black Americans' tangled hair roots. A chronological look at the culture and politics behind the ever-changing state of Black hair from fifteenth-century Africa to the present-day United States, it ties the personal to the political and the popular.

Read about:

* Why Black American slaves used items like axle grease and eel skin to straighten their hair.
* How a Mexican chemist straightened Black hair using his formula for turning sheep's wool into a minklike fur.
* How the Afro evolved from militant style to mainstream fashion trend.
* What prompted the creation of the Jheri curl and the popular style's fall from grace.
* The story behind Bo Derek's controversial cornrows and the range of reactions they garnered.

Major figures in the history of Black hair are presented, from early hair-care entrepreneurs Annie Turnbo Malone and Madam C. J. Walker to unintended hair heroes like Angela Davis and Bob Marley. Celebrities, stylists, and cultural critics weigh in on the burgeoning sociopolitical issues surrounding Black hair, from the historically loaded terms "good" and "bad" hair, to Black hair in the workplace, to mainstream society's misrepresentation and misunderstanding of kinky locks.

Hair Story is the book that Black Americans can use as a benchmark for tracing a unique aspect of their history, and it's a book that people of all races will celebrate as the reference guide for understanding Black hair.

 

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Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, this book deserves a place in any U.S. History course. The fact that it won't get it won't surprise many of us, but I appreciate that the women took such great care in retelling this hair history.

Contents

14001899
1
19001964
25
Naturals Afros and the Changing Politics of Hair 19651979
49
4 The Business of Black Hair
69
Black Hairs New Attitude 19801994
99
Explaining Black Hair Culture
127
19952000
159
The Early 2000s
177
9 The Business of Black Hair 20
205
Sources
229
Index
239
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About the author (2014)

Ayana D. Byrd graduated from Barnard College and is the co-editor of Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips and Other Parts. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, as well as magazines including Glamour, Essence and Rolling Stone. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Lori L. Tharps
is an assistant professor of journalism at Temple University. A graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, she is also the author of the memoir Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and three children.

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