The black hairstyles of 1800’s were very different than those that you may know of today. They were based on methodologies and beliefs that started in ancient Africa. Of course, these traditions were brought to the Americas through the slave trade. These cultural practices were handed down through the generations and are now used in a domestic capacity all over the country!
If you recall, slavery was abolished in 1865, which means that the majority of the black hairstyles of this time were used primarily by native Africans who were still adhering to their traditional culture. Many hairstyles of this region during ancient times were used to communicate that you belonged to a particular family or tribe. Of course, these days this is simply not the case, as these hairstyles are used more as a method for expressing your own individuality.
What is most interesting is that Africans, as a primitive tribal nation, did not use tools for combing or brushing their hair. Like other ancient civilizations that reveled in their natural gifts and took advantage of resources that were available at the time. They used things like grease from meat such as bacon, butter, plant oils and so forth. This led to the development of hair styles that are still somewhat common today. Interestingly, slaves with shiny skin and straight hair were somehow worth more to their owners, who often made them wear their hair a certain way.
The African people who were brought from that continent and sold into slavery in Europe and the Americas took advantage of the natural texture of their hair as well as its tendency to curl. They tried to find ways that they could wear their hair so that it was functional, as they had to work for their food. They also wanted to continue to wear their hair in a way that remained true to their cultural and historical roots. This is how twists, cornrows, and locks were developed. Each tribe or community wore different patterns to distinguish their identity, so it was common to find slaves of similar regions or families wearing their hair in a similar fashion.
Of course, many of these styles still exist today. Braiding, which is the main component of cornrows is a widely celebrated and highly-sought after skill in beauty salons around the world. Professional hair stylists need to know all of the different hair styles that came out of those developed during the slave trade.