In 1966, as the fight for civil rights rose to a feverish pitch, a radical cultural movement arose in the African American community…natural hair became beautiful.
Black women across the nation abandoned their chemically straightened hair for big afros.
The afro was a political statement, a rebellion against the notion perpetuated by many within white society that African American’s natural hair is inherently ugly and inferior.
The Black is Beautiful movement spurred African American women to proclaim their naps and kinks without shame or apology.
The movement lasted nearly two decades before losing its fervor and fading like a distant shadow in the 1980’s.
Challenging European aesthetics soon became obsolete as black women reclaimed a former lustful, infatuation with the burning sensation of chemicals palpating on their scalp, beating their coarse hair into submission.
Black was no longer beautiful as white standards of beauty dominated the media indoctrinating the ideology that straight hair is the epitome of beauty.
However, within recent years the natural hair movement has resurged as a growing number of black women are deserting chemically relaxed hair and ‘going natural.’
Modjossorica Elysee, the owner of the Boston Naturals, told the Boston Globe, the movement toward natural hair is more than just a temporary fad.
“I see a lot of women who have started to accept themselves and their hair,” she said. “They’re encouraging their children to start accepting themselves. This is entirely new.”
Black women are reclaiming the meaning of their natural hair and standing against the ‘American beauty ideal’ which spurns black hair as nappy, unattractive, substandard, and unprofessional.
Sporting twists and curly afros is a signifier of black women’s newly resurrected acceptance of their authentic self and confidence in the innate identity of their hair.
“I feel that I am a more authentic version of myself than I was when a foot of straightened hair hung limp in my face,” said Stacia L. Brown in an article for the New Republic.
Black women did not create the straight hair standard, however wearing their hair natural gives them the power to change it.
“When we see natural hair we’re making a statement… even when we’re not making a statement it is a political statement to those who are on the outside,” Thea Butler, professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, told Melissa Harris Perry on MSNBC.
It is a statement declaring black hair is beautiful too.
Watch this video to hear more black women discuss their opinions on the natural hair movement!