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African American Hair History - How Hairstyles and Hair Treatment Have Changed Through the Years

If you are a beautiful African American woman you no doubt love your hair, whether you choose to keep it natural or incorporate a weave or hair extensions from time to time. No matter what nationality you are a part of, your hair quite literally has to do with your roots, and your roots have to do with your tresses. Your roots are your history, but at the same time the roots that connect the hair to your head tell a lot about who you are and your history as a black woman as well. In other words, your perfect locks have a lot to do with who you are today and who your ancestors were back then too.

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We found an intriguing historical timeline from Thirsty Roots, and we thought we would share with you some of the historical transitions that your hair has gone through. You'll be amazed to see how much it has changed through the years - we've come a long way! Plus, in addition to understanding that we have come a long way, you might also realize even more that it's important to take care of your hair; treat it with love and keep it healthy. Whether this means keeping it natural or having hair extensions, a weave, etc., in up to you. However, the truth remains the same that you should love your hair and give it the proper care and love it deserves because you are beautiful (back then and today)!

1444: Europeans traded on the West Coast of Africa. African Americans wore black hair 2elaborate hairstyles, including locks, plaits and twists.

1619: The very first slaves were brought to Jamestown and at the same time African language, culture and grooming traditions unfortunately began to disappear.

1700s: Black hair began to be called “wool” and many whites continued to dehumanize slaves. The more elaborate African hairstyles also were not continued.

1800s: Without having herbal treatment and combs that came from Africa, slaves began to rely on butter, kerosene, and bacon grease to use as "shampoo" and hair conditioners. Darker-skinned Africans with kinky-hair went for low prices where as lighter-skinned, straight-hair slaves went for a lot more money.

black hair1865: Slavery ended, but whites continues to expect that black women should style their hair like white women. “Good” hair became a prerequisite for entering certain schools, churches, social groups and business networks.

1880: Metal hot combs were invented in 1845 by the French and were available to purchase in the US. The comb was used to straighten kinky hair temporarily by heating and pressing it on to the hair.

1900s: Madame C.J. Walker developed  hair-care products for black hair and she also made the press-and-curl style popular. Some criticized her for encouraging black women to look white instead of embracing their kinky tresses.

1954: George E. Johnson launched the Johnson Products Company with Ultra Wave Hair Culture, which was a “permanent” hair straightener for men that was applied at home. A women’s chemical straightener followed shortly after.

1966: Model Pat Evans defied both black and white standards of beauty and shaved her head.

1977: The Jheri curl exploded on the black hair scene. Billed as a curly perm Lil Kimfor blacks, the ultra moist hairstyle lasted through the 1980s.

1990: “Sisters love the weave,” Essence magazine declared. A variety of natural styles, hair extensions, and locks also become more acceptable.

1999: People magazine named lock-topped Grammy award-winning artist Lauryn Hill one of its 50 Most Beautiful People.

2001: Rapper Lil’ Kim wore a platinum blonde weave, while singer Macy Gray sported a new-school Afro. Some black women permed their hair, and some pressed their hair. Others went with natural twists, braids and locks.

2006: Black hair care became a billion-dollar industry.