Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women's Consciousness

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Hair Matters

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I extend deep gratitude to the girls and women who shared their perspectives about black women and hair. They are the true authors of Hair Matters. Many thanks to those who helped me recruit girls and women, and to all those who allowed me to take...

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Introduction: Unhappy to Be Nappy

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pp. 1-20

In late November 1998, Ruth Sherman, a white teacher at predominantly black and Hispanic Public School (P.S.) 75 in Brooklyn, found herself embroiled in a national controversy after using Carolivia Herron’s children’s book Nappy Hair (1997) in her third grade class. The story’s main character, Brenda, has long and...

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1. Why Hair Matters: Getting to the Roots

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pp. 21-40

Black women share a collective consciousness about hair, though it is articulated in a variety of ways. The first question I asked the girls and women is how and why hair matters. Given the many personal reflective writings by black women...

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2. The Hair “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of Black Womanhood

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pp. 41-68

In the Broadway play The Colored Museum, George C. Wolfe (1987) highlights the importance of hair among black women. In a scene entitled “The Hairpiece,” Wolfe demonstrates the political, social, esthetic, and personal tensions that arise in issues surrounding hair and black women. The scene...

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3. Splitting Hairs: Power, Choice, and Femininity

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pp. 69-98

An important critique of the self-hatred account of hair alteration is that it does not take into consideration hairstyling practices that reflect how black women exercise power and choice, as some women noted in chapter 2. The possibility that...

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4. Women and Girls Speak Out: Five Hair-Raising Sessions

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pp. 99-138

Hair is one of the most talked about subjects among black women. Focus group research can be viewed as a way of recreating these casual discussions. Moreover, talking to groups of women also brings a different dimension to the data collected in...

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5. Black Hair, 1990s Style

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pp. 139-146

In tracing black hairstyling practices during the twentieth century it becomes clear that in the 1990s a variety of hairstyling practices have come on the scene, much of it among U.S. black youth culture. The influence of hip-hop culture and rap music and videos has been tremendous on the styles of black youth,...

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Conclusion

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pp. 147-156

While the media in general was fascinated by the fact that a white teacher was reprimanded after using a children’s book about a black girl’s hair, the point of contention among blacks was more insidious. I again encountered the concern among blacks about highlighting the issue of hair during the summer...

Appendix I: Methods, Methodology, and the Shaping of Hair Matters

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pp. 157-170

Appendix II: Defining Black Hair and Hairstyling Practices

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pp. 171-174

Appendix III: Interviewee Demographics

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pp. 175-178

Notes

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pp. 179-184

References

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pp. 185-192

Index

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pp. 193-196

About the Author

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pp. 197-197