Today teenage black braided hairstyles are a popular style amount African Americans. What many people do not realize is that braids have a long history that can be traced back many years. This article will follow the history of braids in the African American culture.
A sculpture that dates back to 500 B.C shows a person who wore their hair in cornrows. This sculpture was from an ancient Nok civilization and is the earliest proof that has been discovered about braids.
In African history, braids were a way to express kinship, ethnicity, religion, and age. When people were brought from African and were forced into slavery, their hair was shaved for sanitary reasons. Not only did this force them to lose their identity but also a piece of their culture.
After then had been forced into slavery their hair would grow back. As their hair came back so did their braids. This may have been a way for them to assert their independence or a way for them to bring their culture back into their new surroundings. Either way their hairstyle was accepted by their masters who figured their hair should be tidy while working on the plantations. Many slaves were denied basic privileges such as shampoo and combs. They had to improvise when they had a need that should be met. Many slaves relied on butter, kerosene, and bacon grease to keep their hair clean and tidy.
After slavery was abolished, many African American women opted for a new hairstyle. It was thought that when an African American woman wore her hair straight, like a white woman’s hair was that she was more adjusted then other African American women. Even though they were no longer slaves they needed to form to society’s judgment of them and this made it hard for them to fit in. One way for them to better blend into society was to conform to peoples beliefs; this is why many African American women straightened their hair after the civil war. Many of the younger girls were still allowed to wear their hair in braids.
From then until today braids have made a huge comeback. Many popular artists have made cornrows an iconic hairstyle for the African American culture. Athletes have also carried on the style and worn their hair in many braided styles as well. Today there are several products and hairstyles for African hair.