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of Access

Digital Drawings printed on Sateen Fabric

Series of four banners that narrate the evolution of access that African Americans have had throughout history. Each banner represents a different period of time directly related to the freedom of Blacks in America using texture of hair as the main source of form.

(~4000 BC - 1500s)
A time before anyone was considered American. This refers to the Ancient African customs that inspired and influenced our current practices. Styles were detailed and intricate and could take hours to days to complete. They styles were different depending on the time or your role in society.
Afro cultures had already established their own extravagant hairstyles and hair maintenance routines that were used to represent age, tribe or status. It was commonly known that a lot of our culture and self-awareness was associated with our hairstyles. That is precisely why slave traders immediately took them away from us— to remove any trace of our culture.

(~1600s - 1800s)
This refers to the time in which Africans were being kidnapped and forced to live in America as slaves. During this period, usually heads were shaved to erase any identity related to their original culture. 1619: First slaves brought to Jamestown; African language, culture and grooming tradition begin to disappear The hair then grew back dryer and more brittle due to the lack of care and access to resources used for maintenance. (African American Hair History Timeline, 2016)

(~LATE 1800s - 1900s)
During this period, Blacks were just beginning to gain freedom and establish themselves in American society. During this time, hair was pressed, permed, and curled to mimic that of the majority. “Good Hair” would be required for Blacks to access jobs, stores and other public locations. Having “good” hair means to be as far from natural as humanly possible for a black woman with my extreme levels of melanin. By the 1900’s we had “good” hair requirements just to get into certain locations, groups and professions. (Johnson, Godsil & MacFarlane, 2020) This led to women using hot combs to press and curl their tight coils. Later on in the 50’s the chemical hair relaxer was permanently straightening kinky hair. Once straight hair turned into the new standard chemical relaxers for black men and then women emerged to give us a permanent escape from our natural hair form. This was the “tamer” that chemically branded us with “good hair” by giving us silky straight hair all month. (Johnson, T. & Bankhead, T., 2014

(~1900s - Current)
Today, African Americans have a lot more access to expressive styles like the ones worn by their ancient ancestors. However, certain styles like braids and dreads are still banned in certain professions across America. California just became the first state to ban hair regulations in 2019 using the CROWN Act. Today, African Americans host hair shows, conventions and other commerative events to showcase their elaborate hairstyles and introduce new products, materials and methods to care for Black hair.

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