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Hair It Is: Examining the Experiences of Black Women with Natural Hair

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Who am I and how do I feel about who I am, are essential questions that help define and construct identity. For Black women and girls, identity is inextricably linked to their relationship to and presentation of their hair.

Hair is important in many cultures and its meaning and symbolism vary depending on social and cultural context. For African people, hair is deeply symbolic, and its meaning extends into multiple dimensions of Black culture and life. This meaning is both deep and wide; in other words, hair may have spiritual and religious connotations. It may play an essential socio-cultural role, and at other times its meaning may serve as a method of self-expression. Practitioners working with women and girls of African descent, who intend to have a culturally responsive relationship based on respect and value, must understand that part of getting to know their client may mean exploring the meaning of hair to the individuals they serve.

One of the unique features of African textured hair is its ability to be sculpted and molded into various shapes and forms. Hence, while hair may play an important role in the lives of people of all races, for people of African descent, this role is amplified due to the unique nature and texture of Black hair. Since antiquity, Black hairstyles have been known for their complexity and multifaceted nature, a notion that remains true today.

Source: Johnson, T.A. and Bankhead, T. (2014) Hair It Is: Examining the Experiences of Black Women with Natural Hair. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2, 86-100.

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