Black hair reflects black history

Thank you to all the Black women who took it upon themselves to create Black hair inventions that helped us combat Eurocentric standards while teaching us to love our textures

by Jasmine Mouzon, Staff Writer

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Though I celebrate my Blackness yearlong, February is my favorite month to remind people about the great things Black people have contributed to society.

From George Washington Carver making innovations to peanut butter to Langston Hughes’ great literature, there are many individuals to celebrate.

However, I want to focus on Black women who have created inventions for hair that have gone on to be trends we still follow today.

Hair may not seem like such a big deal, but for decades, Black women have had to suppress their natural hair texture in order to conform to Eurocentric standards.

Thus, people like Madam C.J. Walker, Marjorie Joyner and Christina Jenkins have invented things to help Black people with their hair.

I’ll start off with Madam C.J. Walker, originally named Sarah Breedlove, the first African American, self-made millionaire.

Madam C.J. Walker had a scalp disorder that caused her to lose hair, so she decided to create her own products that would suit the African American people.

In the 1900s, Walker developed her own pomade and hot (iron) comb system which promoted a healthy treatment for scalps.

Her ideas are still used in Black hair care and cater to the needs of the Black community.

At no surprise, Madam C.J. Walker had an impact on other Black inventors as well. Inventor Marjorie Joyner learned many techniques from Walker and was able to come up with her own idea. Joyner invented the permanent hair-wave machine which catered to both the Black and white communities.

The machine helped white people achieve the curls they desired as well as helping Black folks loosen any tight curls.

The product helped beauticians do hair in a faster, more efficient way than before.

Though the modern day perm system is not the same, curling/straightening perms are still very much used by people who wish to change their hair texture.

Another inventor that changed the hair game within the last couple of decades is Christina Jenkins. In the 1950s, Jenkins invented the hair weaving process.

For those who don’t know, weaving is the process of sewing in extensions to someone’s head which is usually done by braiding the person’s real hair and then using string to sew in the extensions.

Prior to Jenkins’ invention, people hair weaves were stiff and didn’t move much, plus they were placed on with clips which weren’t healthy for their scalps.

Therefore, Jenkins came up with the idea to sew on the extensions as a healthier and more efficient way to maintain the weave. Now, weaves are used by people of all ethnicities as a way to elongate their hair.

Other hairstyles include braids, locs and baby hairs.

Braids can be traced back to ancient Africa as a way for different tribes to identify themselves.

Braids have and still continue to serve as art for Africans/African Americans and are also a protective style to keep our hair healthy.

As far as locs, historians claim it’s a bit difficult to trace the precise history of them.

However, one of the earliest forms of self-expression through locs can be dated to 1950’s Jamaica as a way for people to express their separation from society by making a political statement with their hair.

It is also a protective style for people of African descent, but of course, non-blacks have adopted the style, despite it not being quite suitable for their hair textures.

Lastly, baby hairs, or laying edges were predominant during the 1970s when people like LaToya Jackson, Sylvia Robinson and Salt ‘N Pepa showcased their swirled baby hairs.

Doing our edges or baby hairs is a way for us as Black women to express ourselves and show how diverse our hair is.

It’s a craft that many of us have perfected by spending hours in the mirror with a toothbrush and edge control to achieve that perfect swoop.

Though these inventions and hairstyles were created by Black women, non-blacks have also used these styles.

It’s always great to see other cultures appreciate the work of others, but it becomes an issue when Black people are shamed for sporting the same styles that non-black people are wearing.

For example, braids, locs and baby hairs have become a trend in pop-culture and are used on non-black models/artists to appear as “edgy,” but when Black people wear those styles, it’s “ghetto,” “inappropriate” and “unprofessional.”

We should work on recognizing where these styles originated from.

There’s a difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation, a concept that many need to grasp.

I only bring this up because it’s 2019, and New York has become one of the first states to ban discrimination against natural hair for Black people.

Countless times, Black children have bent sent home from school or have had their hair cut/touched by their teachers because their natural hair or protective styles were deemed “inappropriate.”

Black men have been turned away from jobs because their hair was in locs, or braids, and the same with Black women.

So, it’s about time that a state has put their foot down on blatant discrimination.

Black hair is beautiful, not inappropriate, period.

Thank you to all the Black women who took it upon themselves to create Black hair inventions that helped us combat Eurocentric standards while teaching us to love our textures.

If you would like to become more informed on Black hair, check out SDSU’s very own natural hair student org. “Campus Curlz” on Instagram @campuscurlz.sdsu.

Anyway, Happy Black History month and in the words of Solange Knowles, “Don’t touch my hair.”

Jasmine Mouzon is a senior studying Africana studies.

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