For much of the Black American experience, we have been encouraged to look as European as possible. So straightening our hair with chemicals or a hot comb was the only way a Black woman could look “presentable” for a long time. If you wanted to be beautiful or have a good job, your hair better look as not Black as possible.

During slavery, white female slave owners would shave the heads of slave women because it was their belief that the slave’s hair was drawing the attention of white males. Even when forced to wear head wraps and tignons, the slave women still continued to receive male attention. To maintain their dignity many slave women would tie the head wrap in elaborate ways and used beautiful fabrics that made the headdress more appealing. Today wearing our natural hair is not only a symbol of the wearer’s Black pride, but it represents the freedom of accepting our hair as it grows on our heads.

For more on the evolution of black hair: