Happy Black History Month from IC Fantasia to you! February is the month to reflect on Black history in the past, present, and future. To celebrate our #BlackGirlMagic, we must understand where that magic stemmed from. Black hair is more than just hairstyles -- it's a special, unique, and sacred culture. Throughout history, black hair and beauty had many women influences who faced various obstacles and oppression in the name of Black freedom and liberation.
Although there are many to count, here are seven iconic Black women who helped contribute, celebrate, and define what Black culture is to this day.
Photo Source: History.com
In 2050 B.C., wigs were a symbol of royal ranking and wealth status. Ancient Egypt hieroglyphs, as pictured above, display Princess Kawit having her hair done by a servant. Wigs at the time were also prohibited to be worn by salves. The reason for this is because upper-class women were viewed as having the luxury to have their hair and wigs groomed -- while being able to command others to style it for them. Hairstyles were determined by social status.
2.) Ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti
Photo Source: History.com
Many of the most iconic and current Black hairstyles can be found in ancient hieroglyphs -- such as afro shape-ups and box braids. Queen Nefertiti's legacy is known for her beauty and power. Her name translates to "a beautiful woman has come". As one of the most well-known icons of Egypt, there have been many pieces of art from her time that show her and her family depicting natural hairstyles.
3.) Madam C.J. Walker - 1900s
Photo Source: Oprah Magazine
Madam C.J. Walker was truly an innovative entrepreneur of her time. She developed a collection of hair care products specifically for African American hair texture when she saw a demand for this market that was untouched. This included the revolutionized press and curl hairstyle in 1910. Madam C.J. Walked is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the first American self-made millionaire -- also the sole inspiration and played by the famous Octavia Spencer for the hit Netflix television series, Self-Made.
4.) Angela Davis - 1960's
Photo Source: Essence
The Black is Beautiful movement stemmed from the Black Power Movement in the 1960s. Historical political activist, Angela Davis, is an icon in Black beauty by proudly rocking her afro as a symbol to liberate black hair culture against white oppression throughout the Civil Rights Movement. The afro itself became a political symbol of African heritage pride which was viewed at that time as "militant" or "threatening" --- due to African Americans' refusal to assimilate to European-centric cultures. Angela paved the way for many women and men to love themselves and their hair because that's who they are; regardless of what mainstream America believed during that time.
5.) Beverly Johnson - 1974
Photo Credit: Vogue
Beverly Johnson was the first ever African American to land the cover of Vogue magazine in 1974. As a historical moment, Beverly made a huge impact on structural changes within the fashion industry. After being rejected modeling jobs due to her race, she never gave up and landed on the most prestigious fashion magazine in the world. Beverly Johnson opened the door for Black models and Black beauty to be appropriately represented within the fashion industry -- even to this day!
6.) Grace Jones - 1980s
Photo Credit: Vogue
Grace Jones is a legendary actress, model, and singer, who is a fearless pop icon and broke mainstream beauty standards. Her signature flat-top fade haircut was a symbol for natural hair beauty and liberation which influences pop culture to this day. Grace Jones is a timeless beauty who showed you can be androgynous and beautiful. Her impact remains an inspiration for Black hair culture today.
7.) Senator Holly J. Mitchell - 2019
Photo Source: The CROWN Act
California Senator Holly J. Mitchell made legislative history in 2019 by being the first to introduce and pass The CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) in her state. This law prohibits discrimination on hairstyle and hair texture in the workplace. After numerous incidents of African Americans being denied educational and employment opportunities because of their natural hairstyles such as: braids, locs, twists, and bantu knots, this law is now recognized in seven out of 50 states. There is a long history of Black hair culture facing oppression to assimilate to European-centric values, and Senator Holly J. Mitchell permanently paved the way for better Black hair beauty standards in the future for America.
At IC Fantasia, every day is Black History Month and we are proud to be a part of a diverse community who celebrates each other's natural and unique beauty. We're all queens after all.
Thank you for reading!