JSS  Vol.2 No.1 , January 2014
Hair It Is: Examining the Experiences of Black Women with Natural Hair
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. Our research presents findings from an Internet based survey conducted with 529 Black women exploring their experiences when wearing their hair in its natural state (not thermally or chemically straightened). These are preliminary findings from the study with reference to the composition of the study participants and how they responded to key questions related to how they perceived when wearing their hair naturally.

Cite this paper
Johnson, T. and Bankhead, T. (2014) Hair It Is: Examining the Experiences of Black Women with Natural Hair. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2, 86-100. doi: 10.4236/jss.2014.21010.
[1]   Ashe, B.D. (1995) “Why don’t he like my hair?” Constructing African-American Standards of Beauty in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes were Watching God. African American Review, 29, 579-592. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3042151

[2]   Byrd, A. and Tharps, L. (2001) Hair story: Untangling the roots of black hair in America. St. Martin’s Press, New York.

[3]   Rooks, N. (1996) Hair raising: Beauty, culture and African American women. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick.

[4]   Tate, S. (2007) Black beauty: Shade, hair and anti-racist aesthetics. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30, 300-319. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01419870601143992

[5]   Webb, T., Looby, J. and Fults-McMurtery, R. (2004) African American men’s perceptions of body figure attractiveness: An acculturation study. Journal of Black Studies, 34, 370-385. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0021934703254100

[6]   Chapman, Y. (2007) “I am not my hair! Or am I?”: Black women’s transformative experience in their self perceptions of abroad and at home. Master’s thesis. http://digitalarchive.gsu.edu/anthro_theses/23

[7]   Dash, P. (2006) Black hair culture, politics and change. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 10, 27-37. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13603110500173183

[8]   Thompson, C. (2009) Black women, beauty, and hair as a matter of being. Women’s Studies, 38, 831-856. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00497870903238463

[9]   Ani, M. (2006) Let the circle be unbroken: The implications of African spirituality in the Diaspora. Nkonimo, New York.

[10]   Jere-Malanda, R. (2008) Black women’s politically correct hair. New African Woman, 14-18.

[11]   Morrow, W. (1973) 400 years without a comb: The untold story. Black Publishers, San Diego.

[12]   Gates, R. (1957) 98. Forms of hair in South African races. Man, 57, 81-83. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2794242

[13]   Erasmus, Z. (1997) “Oe! My hare gaanHuistoe”: Hair-styling as Black cultural practice. Race, Identity and Change, 32, 11-16.

[14]   Grenee, H. (2011) What spending a half a trillion dollars on hair care and weaves say about us. The San Diego Voice and View Point. http://sdvoice.info/what-spending-a-half-a-trillion-dollars-on-hair-care-and-weaves-says-about-p1005-101.htm

[15]   IBIS World Report (2012) African American hair manufacturing in the US: Market research report. http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/african-american-hair-product-manufacturing.html

[16]   Desmond-Harris, J. (2009) Why Michelle’s hair matters. Time, 174, 55-57.

[17]   Haley, A. (1973) The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley. A One World Book, New York.

[18]   Bey, J. (2011) Going natural requires lots of help. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/09/fashion/hair-care-for-african-americans.html?_r=0

[19]   Bodenhorn, H. and Ruebeck, C. (2007) Colourism and African American wealth: Evidence from the nineteenth century south. Journal of Population economics, 20, 599-620. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00148-006-0111-x

[20]   Hall, R. (1992) Bias among African Americans regarding skin color: Implications for social work practice. Research on Social Work Practice, 2, 479-486. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/104973159200200404

[21]   Hughes, M. and Hertel, B.R. (1990) The significance of color remains: A study of life chances, mate selection, and ethnic consciousness among Black Americans. Social Forces, 68, 1105-1120.

[22]   Hunter, M. (2002) “If you’re light you’re alright”: Light skin color as social capital for women of color. Gender and Society, 16, 175-193.

[23]   Hurston, Z.N. (1937) Their eyes were watching God. HarperCollins, New York.

[24]   Levine, P. (2008) The state of undress: Nakedness and the colonial imagination. Victorian Studies, 50, 189-219. http://dx.doi.org/10.2979/VIC.2008.50.2.189

[25]   White, B.S. (2003) Latter-day emancipation! Woman, dance and healing in Jamaican dancehall culture. Agenda, 58, 77-83.

[26]   Solly, S., Moojen G. and Lindfors, B. (1985) Courting the Hottentot Venus. Africa: Rivistatrimestraledi stud e Documentazione dell’Istitutoitaliano per l’Africael’Oriente, 40, 133-148.

[27]   Carson, L. (2009) “I am because we are”: Collectivism as a foundational characteristic of African-American college student identity and academic achievement. Social Psychology of Education, 12, 327-344. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11218-009-9090-6

[28]   Chavous, T., Bernat, D., Schmeelk-Cone, K., Caldwell, C., Kohn-Wood, L. and Zimmerman, M. (2003) Racial identity and academic attainment among African American adolescents. Child Development, 74, 1076-1090. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00593

[29]   Robinson, J. and Biran M. (2006) Discovering self: Relationships between African identity and academic achievement. Journal of Black Studies, 37, 46-68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0021934704273149

[30]   Bonvillain, J.F. and Honora, D. (2004) Racial identity attitudes, self-esteem, and academic achievement among African American adolescents. Reports/Research.

[31]   Byrd, C. and Chavous, T. (2009) Racial identity and academic achievement in the neighborhood context: A multilevel analysis. Youth Adolescence, 38, 544-559. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10964-008-9381-9

[32]   Chavous, T.M., Rivas-Drake, D., Smalls, C., Griffin, T. and Cogburn, C. (2008) Gender matters too: The influences of school discrimination and racial identity on academic engagement among African American adolescent boys and girls. Developmental Psychology, 44, 637-654. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.44.3.637

[33]   Cokley, K. and Chapman, C. (2008) The roles of ethnic identity, anti-white attitudes, and academic self-concept in African American student achievement. Social Psychology of Education, 11, 349-365. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11218-008-9060-4

[34]   Eccles, J., Wong, C. and Peck, S. (2006) Ethnicity as a social context for the development of African American adolescents. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 407-426. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2006.04.001

[35]   Gordon, D., Iwamoto, D., Ward, N., Potts, R. and Boyd, E. (2009) Mentoring urban Black middle school male students: Implications for academic achievement. Journal of Negro Education, 78, 277-289.

[36]   Nasim, A., Roberts, A., Harrell, J. and Young, H. (2005) Non-cognitive predictors of academic achievement for African Americans across cultural contexts. The Journal of Negro Education, 74, 344-358.

[37]   Oyserman, D., Kemmelmeier, M., Fryberg, S., Brosh, H. and Hart-Johnson, T. (2003) Racial-ethnic self-schemas. Social Psychology Quarterly, 66, 333-347. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1519833

[38]   Degruy, J. (2006) Post-traumatic slave syndrome: America’s legacy of enduring injury and healing. Uptown Press, Baltimore.

[39]   Wise, L., Palmer, J., Reich, D., Cozier, Y. and Rosenberg, L. (2012) Hair relaxer use and risk of uterine leiomyomata in African-American women. American Journal of Epidemiology, 175, 432-440. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwr351

[40]   (2000) Hair Relaxers: Chemical Market Reporter. General Science Collection.

[41]   Etemesi, B. (2007) Impact of hair relaxers in women in Nakuru, Kenya International. Journal of Dermatology, 46, 23-25. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-4632.2007.03458.x

[42]   Healy, M. (2011) ‘Natural’ hair making waves among Black women. USA Today. http://yourlife.usatoday.com/your-look/story/2011-12-21/Natural-hair-is-making-waves-among-black-women/52147456/1

[43]   Rosenberg, M. (1965) Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton University Press, Princeton.