The functional and symbolic roles of hair and headgear among Afro-American women : a cultural perspective

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Anna Atkins Simkins (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Billie G. Oakland

Abstract: This study examined the significance of the functional and symbolic roles of hair and headgear among Afro-American women. The presence of these aspects of adornment was traced in African and Afro-American settings from pre-colonial Africa to contemporary New World societies. The investigation included the analyses of comparative sources, including descriptive accounts, visual documentation, and contemporary data. The• focused interview technique was used to collect data from a non-random sample of Afro-American women, aged twenty to ninety. Beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and motivations relating to hair management and adornment were studied. The conclusions drawn from comparative sources presented the idea that hair and headgear are two characteristics chosen by Afro-American women for aesthetic expression, maintenance of non-verbal communication, reinterpretation of traditional African forms, and dramatization of ethnic identity. A union of function and symbol was found in the adornment of the hair and head among Afro-American women in both historical and contemporary contexts.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1982
Hairdressing of Afro-Americans
African American women $x Social life and customs

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