There has been ongoing discussion amongst black women about the differences in their dating experiences based on their hairstyles in the present day. This conversation has pushed my research, as I was curious to discover if these feelings that modern-day black women have now reverberate back to the twentieth century. This project investigates the intersection of class, colorism (the idea that lighter skin tones are better than darker one), texturism (the idea that less kinky hair is desirable) and class in black women’s beauty culture within the context of romantic relationships between black men and women. I address the question of how black women were perceived romantically by black men depending on the hairstyles they wore, particularly in terms of the texture of their hair, within the boom in commercialization of black female beauty culture (1910s to 1930s) and the Civil Rights and Black Power era (1960s to 1970s). These two periods are significant in that they had deep cultural impact in the black community, especially in their effects on how black feminine beauty was interpreted, with the early twentieth century promoting straighter hairstyles, and the Civil Rights and Black Power era supporting the politicized Afro and other more natural styles. How did these trends affect the romantic lives of black women, and did colorism, texturism, and the class of the woman play a part in conjunction with her hairstyle?
Miracle Johnson is a Senior majoring in English and History at Salem College. She loves reading thrillers and romances, and making quick trips to secondhand bookstores. In the fall, she plans to attend graduate school to obtain a M.A in History.