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Course Catalog > Faculty Lectures & Special Events > Faculty Favorite Lecture Series

Black Hair Politics: A Historical Perspective   

The history of black women's hair in the Americas can serve as illustration of oppression and dominance, but also of resistance to alienation. Whether covered during field labor, groomed on Saturday evenings, celebrated on Sunday, arranged as prestigious imitation in the “Big House,” braided into secret codes in Colombia, shaved as punishment, or denied all exhibition under the tignon laws in Louisiana, hair has been weaponized to control, hypersexualize, and de-feminize black women for centuries. More recently, there has been a resurgence of natural hairstyles, which has been abundantly documented. However, this trend has been countered by restrictive policies that insist on standardizing whiteness as the norm of hair textures. Drawing on studies of race and hair across multiple periods of Pan-American history, this lecture will demonstrate that in more ways than one, black hair is, and has always been, political.