I ran across this article today on the American Legacy Magazine site listed as a “Little Known Black History Fact”. The fact happens to be part history & part recent news but nonetheless interesting.
After digging around for more information, I found that this story is about 2-3 years old but it sounds like news from today.
The first piece of the story tripped me out because natural Black hairstyles are under fire in corporate American, HBCU’s & now in Africa (WTF). The reasoning is pretty homophobic but I know that Nigeria has some serious beef with gays especially over the last several years (outlawing homosexuality).
Cornrows and Black Hair
Nigerian government officials have banned members of its national soccer team from wearing hair braids, dreadlocks and earrings. One government official said, ” Our youth are now taking after our great [soccer] players… don’t forget that in the developing world that the braiding of hair and earrings have a sense of homosexuality.” Critics of the decision say that the soccer players are just practicing African culture.
The slaves that worked inside the plantation houses were required to present a neat and tidy appearance so men and women often wore tight braids, plaits, and cornrows (made by sectioning the hair and braiding it flat to the scalp). The braid patterns were commonly based on African tradition and styles.
Of course up until Madame C.J. Walker invented an effective system of straightening hair, most black people wore their hair natural in braids, plaits, cornrows, and naturals. In the 1950s, the revolts against colonialism in Africa and the stirrings of a new cultural politics in America inspired alternatives to straightening techniques. Black artists, scholars, and activists began to look toward African styles.
On a trip to Africa, the black painter, John Biggers described how African women did their hair: The hair is greased, combed, and tightly plaited. The ends of the hair that fall upon the neck are tied by a string. The comb has been carved from hard wood”. Cornrows were not the only style that African Americans had “rediscovered” in Africa. South African women in the 1950s were wearing a natural or “bush” style. Jackson (2000) notes that this style begins to appear among Black artists, intellectuals and activists in the mid-1950s. To stress its cultural origins they called it an “Afro.” Of course the Afro made it’s high point in the 70s before it gradually faded during the 80s. (Source | American Legacy Magazine)