7 Facts About African Women and the Upkeep of Their Hair During Slavery

African women took great pride in their hair, even before being captured and brought to America. Whether long or short the African women found great styles to accentuate their appearance. Here are 7 facts you might not know about enslaved women and the upkeep of their hair during slavery.

1. Hairstyles have always been important to African women. Women in Africa spent hours getting their hair the way they wanted it to look. When slaves were captured, their hair was cut off in order to strip the enslaved of their identity.

2. Women were given head-wrap to use to protect their head from harsh weather conditions and lice. Some places in the South required slave women to keep their heads wrapped at all times. It was used to hide their beauty, because the white women were jealous of the many styles black women could do with their hair.

3. Slave women who worked in the house kept their hair braided. Most of them did not wear head wraps and there was no concern about head lice or ringworm because they were not out in the field.

4. Women often washed and conditioned their hair with butter, kerosene and bacon grease. They would also use carding combs used for animals to comb their hair.

5. Originally the head-wrap, or turban, was worn by both enslaved men and women. In time, however, it became almost exclusively a female accessory.

6. For white European Slave owners, the slaves’ head-wraps were signs of poverty and subordination.

7. Once European fabrics were made available African women wore head-wraps similar to those worn by their enslaved counterparts in America. For these women, the wrap, which varied in form from region to region was about personal identity.

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