...“This is big,” said Noliwe Rooks, professor of Africana studies at Cornell University. “Hair is connected to civil rights … and needs to be protected.”
Black hair has had a symbolic potency in the USA since the 1800s and has been a stand-in for a kind of black identity that doesn't want to assimilate.
“It’s at the moment of when you had large numbers of African-Americans leaving enslavement and the Great Migration, so there was more contact between communities on more equal footing,” Rooks said. "The narrative is ‘You just don’t look civilized. You just don’t look professional.’ ”
Natural hair became a powerful symbol of pride and militancy during the Black Power movement that emerged in the 1960s.
“It’s less about fitting in,” Rooks said. “I’m proud how hair grows out of my head.”
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