Saturday, August 4, 2007

Great Moments In Black Hair History: 1979

In the year 1979. The world was amazed, and African Americans were appalled, when Bo Derek appeared on the movie screen wearing a braided cornrow hair style.

For the rest of the world, it was a showed that anyone could wear that hairstyle, no matter what the color of the skin. For the African Americans, however, it symbolized the end of the 'Black Is Beautiful' movement... why???

Going back a few years, to the year 1963. The world, once again, was shocked or amazed over a hairstyle. This time, however, it was from seeing an African American woman, Cicely Tyson, wearing her hair natural on National TV.

During this time the world viewed black people, especially black woman, as ugly and not human. If an Black woman was seen walking down the street wearing her hair 'not straightened' she was automatically despised, not only by the European Americans but by the African American people as well.

Hatred towards an African American woman, was based off her appearance. She couldn't find a husband if her hair was not straightened. Nor could she get work... In magazines, newspapers, and posters. She was told over and over again, both by black and white people, that she needed to straighten her hair in order to appear beautiful.

For centuries, slave owners would purposely dehumanize the black woman. By referring to her hair as woolly (Like a sheep. Making her appear like animal), as well as using illustrations in newspapers and posters to show her as an ugly barbaric creature. The reason why they focused on the black woman, was because from her insecurities she would also pass on these thoughts to her children. Making sure generation after generation, her descendants would resent themselves.

And if a group of people are weak from their insecurities, it makes them easier to control...


For the first time in African American history, Cicely Tyson (a darker skinned African American Woman) wore her braids proudly on a national television show on CBS, East Side West Side.

The Black People... for a moment (in a sense) opened their eyes. They began to ask questions, research their history and then finally realized what they have being doing to themselves.

One of the most interesting movements in black history had finally arrived... the "Black Is Beautiful" movement.

The "Black Is Beautiful" Movement was a movement that was made to 'celebrate' the beauty of black people. By helping black people gain self confidence as well as show the rest of the world that black people are beautiful, as well as human.

The movement continued through out the 60's but new terms, symbols or meanings kept being added on to what 'going natural' meant. The once simple and peaceful movement eventually was morphed and run by extremists. The 'natural look' became incorporated with more violent actions and movements rather than remaining just a peaceful statement.

But by the 70's, the 'natural look' (mainly the afro) became just another hair style and no longer carried the strong political meaning that it once had. People of all races and cultures were getting a 'fro. In fact, they were desperately trying to get their hair permed, so that they could be able to 'fro up their hair.

The Afro became seen as comical. Jokes about people hiding objects in their afro, and other jokes constantly kept appearing through out different types of media. European Americans no longer felt a need to be threatened by seeing an Afro on a black person.

Cornrows and dreadlocks, however, still appeared as unprofessional and eccentric to the European Standards. Black Women, and black men, were being fired from their jobs for coming to work wearing locks or cornrows. White women, however, would go to work wearing their hair in cornrows and receive compliments about how 'cute' it looked on them. Double Standards began to control society.

So when Bo Derek fronted her cornrow hair style on "10" ( a movie by Blake Edwards: 1979), black people viewed it as an insult. Interestingly enough, the hairstyle Bo Derek decided to wear was very similar to what Cicely Tyson wore in 1963.

The "Black Is Beautiful" movement (in a faze) died. The African Americans forgot why they went natural in the first place (or never really understood) then realized that they wanted to go back to work again. In the 1980's they quickly grabbed their hair straightening chemicals or adopted a new kind of chemical to change the texture of their nappy hair to look once again 'professional' and 'beautiful' to the rest of the world.

... Enter the era of the Jheri Curl...

1 comment:

PhatabulousMag said...

I really enjoyed reading this researching natural hair on black women for black history month:)