Debunking Natural Hair Myths

By Chinwe A. Onuoha



The Black natural hair movement may seem like a recent trend for some people. However, there is a powerful historical context behind Black natural hair that starts from the days of slavery. During that time, many men and women wore their hair in its kinky curly state, however following the end of slavery, all of that changed. In 1880 the French invented metal hot combs to straighten their hair and of course this became a huge phenomenon in the Black community. In 1990, however, Madam C.J. Walker’s hair growth products revolutionized the Black hair industry. As time progressed (particularly in the 1920’s), Black natural hair served as a major part in political movements in the pursuit of promoting Black Nationalism.

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As actors and actresses redefined beauty standards in America by moving away from the “All-American girl” (ie. blue eyes, blonde straight hair) image, political activist and feminist, Angela Davis, became an icon of Black power when she displayed her large afro for the world to see, Melba Tolliver, a journalist for ABC, was fired for wearing an afro while covering Tricia Nixon’s wedding, and the jheri curl trend exploded into a huge phenomenon in the Black hair community. However, look at where we are now.

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Natural Black women and men are currently living in the midst of a socio-economical warfare. In today’s news, there are employers who don’t see Black natural men and women as good candidates for their so-called professional environment –which threatens their livelihood. If that doesn’t seem bad enough, students of all ages face expulsion because their natural hair serves as a distraction in the classroom. Furthermore, the media plays a quintessential role in the way we perceive things. In advertisements or commercials, women and men with natural hair are shown playing stereotypical roles that gives off negative impressions about Black natural hair and ultimately the Black community.

As a result, there are several websites, blogs, and on-campus college organizations that are focused on debunking the myths that are most commonly associated with Black natural hair. By doing this, they hope to spread an abundance of self-love, confidence, and discipline to their audience by providing powerful educational tools, such as seminars, workshops, and Youtube hair tutorials. As more people trade in their hair straighteners and perm boxes for cantu shea butter and avocado oil, how will they be able to break past the barriers of America’s one-dimensional view on beauty successfully? Is there a high probability that the Black natural hair kingdom that’s currently building will fall? If people continue to create a greater conversation about this issue as well as fight for justice against such injustice, perhaps there will be less discrimination against those who choose to wear their hair naturally.

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Popular Black Natural Hair Bloggers/Youtubers:

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Links –

The Exercise of First Amendment Rights Leads To Expulsion From Job:


Importance of Learning About Black Natural Hair:


Students Who Face Expulsion Due To Natural Black Hair:


Relevant Readings:

1. Hunter,  Race Gender and the Politics of Skin Tone, 2, 9. 

2. Kathy Russell, Midge Wilson, and Ronald Hall, The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color In A New Millennium

(New York, Anchor, 2013), 34.

3. Leonard Steinhorn and Barbara Diggs-Brown, By the Color of Our Skin: The Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race

(New York), 23.

4. Margaret L Hunter,  Race Gender and the Politics of Skin Tone

(Routledge, New York), 2.

5. Tamar Jacoby,  Someone Else’s House: America’s Unfinished Struggle for Integration

(Basic Books, 1998), 3. 

6. Binkovitz, Leah. “A Natural Hair Movement Takes Root.” Smithsonian., 7 June 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2014

7. Brew-Hammond, Nana Ekua. “Natural Hair Care’s next Wave.” TheGrio., 6 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.

8. Golgowski, Nina. “Oklahoma School Changes Dress Code after ‘no Dreadlocks’ Policy Sent Girl Home in Tears.” NY Daily News., 11 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.
4. Ham, David. “HU Business School Dean Stands by Dreadlocks, Cornrows Ban.” WVEC WVEC, 20 Aug. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.

9. Minnicks, Margaret. “Critics Tweet about Gabby Douglas’ Hair.” N.p., 4 Aug. 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.

10. Sieczkowski, Cavan. “Sheryl Underwood Apologizes For Comments About ‘Nappy,’ ‘Nasty’ Natural Black Hair.” The Huffington Post., 05 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.

11. Tharps, Lori L. Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. By Ayana D. Byrd. New York: St. Martin’s, 2001. Pg 12,14 Print.

12. Wilson, Julee. “Solange Knowles’ Hair Targeted By The TSA, Plus A Tribute To The Singer’s Amazing Afro (PHOTOS).” The Huffington Post., 16 Nov. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.

13. Wilson, Julee. “Rhonda Lee Fired: TV Station Responds To Meteorologist’s Claim She Was Fired For Facebook Comments About Her Natural Hair.” The Huffington Post., 11 Dec. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.


(I also plan to discuss this topic by writing a research paper, which will contain relevant images and sources.)


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