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Black Hair in a White World

176 pages
The Kent State University Press

A critical and nuanced look at societal perceptions of Black hair, past and present

Black Hair in a White World is an in-depth study of the cultural history, perceptions, and increasing acceptance of Black hair in the broader American society. The essays in this anthology discuss representations and responses to Black hair, including analysis of research findings about marketing messages and depictions of Black hair in popular culture, discussions of workplace discrimination, and stories about the origins of the natural hair movement and how many Black people have learned to embrace and celebrate their natural hair.

Beginning with a close analysis of historical and contemporary books, media, and ads, Black Hair in a White World illustrates both positive and negative responses to Black hair. In the second section, Ellington features contributions from diverse scholars and activists who argue that natural Black hair has often explicitly been––and still is––criticized by non-Blacks and Blacks who believe that the natural texture of Black hair is a problem that must be solved and believe that natural Black hair is unacceptable, unprofessional, and unattractive. Authors of the volume’s final essays conclude by pushing against this narrative and describing the emergence of the natural hair movement, which has pushed for increased mainstream acceptance of Black hair.

Black Hair in a White World is a groundbreaking, serious examination of perceptions of Black hair and makes an important contribution to ongoing discussions about gender, sociology, and self-expression.

Author Bio

Tameka N. Ellington is a fashion scholar, educator, and expert on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. She has published several academic journal articles and two books, and she is the cocurator of the internationally acclaimed, award-winning exhibition TEXTURES: the history and art of Black hair.