A repository of women's grassroots social activism in Brooklyn since 1945

Director Zinga Fraser Speaks With “Essence” on the Storied Legacy of Black Women’s Braids

Chisholm Project Director, Dr. Zinga Fraser, was interviewed by Essence Magazine and prominently featured in its recent article  “Respect Our Roots: A Brief History Of Our Braids”.

The article examines the ancestral origins of braiding and how Black women’s hair traditions are intertwined with cultures of survival, resistance and activism throughout U.S. history.

“African women have a rich history in terms of the ways they adorn their hair,” Dr.  Fraser states in the piece. The article follows this strand of history through the practical concerns of Black women during and after slavery, the Great Migration and the Black Power era. It also discusses the cultural and counter-cultural significance of braids up to the present day. 

Also from the article:

According to Fraser, it’s impossible to understand the history of braids, and Black American hair culture in general, without looking at the impact of slavery on African women. In addition to the physical and psychological trauma it caused, an erasure occurred, she says. Before the captured boarded the slave ships, traffickers shaved the heads of the women in a brutal attempt to strip them of their humanity and culture.

To read the full article, including the rest of Dr. Fraser’s analysis, please follow the link provided above. To learn even more from her research on the politics of Black beauty and hair, you can check out this documentary “Braided: An American Hair Story” where she speaks on the subject at length.

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