The afro is more than just a hairstyle, it was an incredibly powerful symbol of the civil rights movement. During and after the period of slavery in the United States, most Blacks styled their hair in an attempt to mimic their oppressors. European settlers considered kinky or “nappy” hair unattractive and undesirable. The hair of Africans was often referred to as cottony and woolly. Europeans deemed their straight and fine hair texture as the ideal. Black hair was the antithesis of the Euro-American standard of beauty thus possessing nappy hair was negative and shameful.
The Civil Rights Movement sparked a change in the way Blacks viewed their hair and themselves. The movement was a catalyst for Blacks to embrace who they were were naturally including their hair texture. In the African American community, there was a renewed appreciation for the Black aesthetic resulting in the popular phrase “Black is Beautiful”. The afro became a powerful political symbol that reflected the pride one had in their African ancestry. No longer were Blacks attempting to assimilate. Prominent Civil Rights activist, Angela Davis, one of my inspirations, rocked a picked out ‘fro which led many women to follow in her footsteps. A Black person wearing a ‘fro was dubbed as militant and threatening. This notion was promoted by law officials, politicians and the media. Maybe you weren’t able to read inbetween the lines but basically, Black people loving themselves was frigthening to mainstream America.
It is important for us to remember our history and the power symbols possess. For me, rocking my hair in it’s afro texture meant I was choosing to love and accept my Black self and I would no longer use abrasive methods in an attempt to alter who I was naturally. I hope it’s more than just a ‘style for you as well. With the deaths of Eric Garner, Travyon Martin and Kendrick Johnson—I believe a new movement for Blacks in America will begin soon. It seems like the natural hair movement will make a perfect pairing once again.