The Black Power Movement: Natural Hair During The Civil Rights Movement

1345 Words 5 Pages
The term, “natural hair”, is frequently used to describe African-American hair that has not been heat damaged, or chemically processed and in the state in which it grows from one’s head (Marshall). The ‘natural hair look’ became prominent in the 1960’s, before and during the civil rights movement (Luter; Brown 17). Many activists, and in general, everyday women wore their as is, which is commonly associated with the “Afro”. The “Afro” was not only a hairstyle, but a political statement for black men and women refusing the restrictions from society and assimilation to white standards of beauty. The Afro was also a “silent affirmation of African roots and the beauty of blackness” (Brown 16). The Black Power Movement is strongly associated with …show more content…
Stacia Brown, a radio personality and journalist, contemplated how her Afro would affect her job interview in her article for New Republic’s, “My Hair, My Politics”. Although feeling free after cutting her damaged hair and going natural, Brown mentions once leaving a nonprofit for a new job, “aesthetic anxieties come immediately to mind”. How would her interviewers receive her Afro? One of Brown’s friends declared, “[You need] to rethink walking in with a ‘bush’” (Brown 16). Comments of this nature are just some of the reasons why relaxers and flat-irons are so popular for black women in America. Rooks stated that many straightening product advertisements often made straight hair and “social and economic advancement” synonymous (Rooks 119). Today, in the current natural hair movement, less women are straightening their hair, which causes conflict with company and government policies. When Janet Bello interviewed for a job at Six Flags, she was disqualified for the occupation not because of incompetence, but due to her dreadlocks (Smith). Hairstyles are not reasons to disqualify someone from a job. In addition, discrimination of natural hairstyles is not limited to the job field. A step down from the job market is secondary education, where prejudice against dreads within job fields pressures business schools to …show more content…
Hegemony or the dominance of a particular social group, promotes these feelings (R. Jeffries and D. Jeffries 164). In “Reclaiming Our Roots: The Influences of Media Curriculum on the Natural Hair Movement”, Rhonda Jeffries and Devair Jeffries explore the implications of the distaste for natural hair through Chris Rock’s Good Hair documentary and the play, Funnyhouse of a Negro by Adrienne Kennedy. Rock was prompted to create the documentary to examine the dichotomy between “good hair” (often associated with straight hair) and “bad hair” (often associated with kinky/curly hair) after his daughter wondered why she did not possess “good hair” (R. Jeffries and D. Jeffries). The idea of African-American features being inferior to the Anglo-Saxon model stems from the colonization era and pre-Darwinists, such as Charles Smith and George Stocking who emphasized racial hierarchies (Rooks 38-39). Centuries later, these constructs are still present, but influential women, such as the renowned poet, Maya Angelou, encourage current generations to remember having “good hair” is “if you have it on your head” (R. Jeffries and D. Jeffries 163). For those unsatisfied with their hair as ‘good hair’, they turn to relaxers. According to R. Jeffries & D. Jeffries, users of relaxers in 2013 were susceptible to brain and lung damage. Yet, women

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