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  • Writer's pictureNana

Angela Davis and the Natural Hair Movement

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

In February, the Black History Month, we celebrate achievements by Black people. Her Afro was more than a hairstyle for Angela Davis. It was a powerful symbol in the civil rights movement in the United States. Angela Davis and women around her faced many private, political and societal problems yet that didn’t stop them from showing up with their Natural hair, in the media, at meetings, in offices, at protests, during peace walks and any other chance they could get. A Black person wearing an afro was dubbed as threatening.

With their courage, these people impact and reaffirm Black Identity, Black Culture and Black History. These women paved ways for the generations that followed till our present time.
Picture credit : pinterest

One woman that stands out for us and who we acknowledge during this year's Black History Month is Angela Davis. Born to an African - American middle class family in Birmingham Alabama, Angela is currently a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She studied French at Brandeis University, philosophy at the University of Frankfurt and completed her doctorate at the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Upon her return to the United States, she was involved in the second - wave feminist movement and campaigns against the Vietnam war. In the late 70’s many controversies around her arose leading to her arrest and placement in the FBI’s most wanted list. An indirect statement that is most evident in the flyers put up by the FBI were Angela’s hair, the Afro. The African American became one of the symbolic figures of the Black Power movement in the 1970s. The party was founded with the goal of protecting the Black community from state violence. Most of the women in the black panther party were highly educated women with degrees currently still holding roles as directors, professors, part of educational boards, founders of various foundations that help various needs in communities.

The one thing that they all had in common was representing with their Afro.
“Our lives are dedicated to the struggle against imperialism” - Angela Davis (Neues Deutschland)

Picture credit : picture-alliance

Davis established the political discourse of black hair movements around the world.

Picture credit: Archival

Spending a total of 16 months behind bars despite her very evident innocence, thousands organized movements and a fund dubbed “Black People in Defense of Angels Davis”. By February 1971 200 American local committees and 67 foreign countries of which Germany is included worked to free Angela from Jail. John Lennon's song Angela with Yoko Ono contributed to this campaign. Hair culture especially in the black community has been a very turbulent journey of many ups and downs. From chemical relaxers to fit the straightened, more accepted standard of hair beauty, being not only seen as a societal standard but also a key standard for employment, potentially affecting the quality of life and sustainability. To hot combs, which were a harsh use of hot tools to again, straighten curly/coily hair to „fit the standard“.

To the present day; many Afro- Americans, Afro-Europeans and people of color wear their respective Afros, Coils, Curls, waves and mixed textures with pride.

This Month, this year, today and any other day we celebrate these people that to this day be it living or dead continue to impact and reaffirm Black Identity, Black Culture and Black History.

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