Why The Natural Hair Movement Was A Gift And A Curse

Arah Iloabugichukwu
8 min readAug 9, 2018

I made it all the way from the Just For Me craze to the infamous wrap era without so much as a curling iron touching my head. Well, there was this one time for picture day in 5th grade that my mom decided to bless me with some Shirley temple curls. She made it about half through my mid-back kinks before throwing in the towel, tossing the entire middle section into a Bantu knot and sending me on my way. That 5th grade struggle photo, complete with Pebbles’ top knot, will forever encapsulate the relationship I have with my hair. Me in a constant state of “Really, Girl??” and my hair offering a boisterous “REALLY……PERIOD!” in return. Being natural was a lot more challenging back then, when there were only two recognizable hair types: Type A or “Oh girl, you need a perm” and Type B or “Ooh girl, you got that good hair!” (B). Unfortunately, I was an extreme case of Type A which meant there was no escaping the constant reminder that my hair was inherently bad. If not for my mother’s strictness, I would’ve relaxed my hair much sooner than the 10th grade, a decision that only took me 2 years to regret. Back then a relaxer wasn’t just a black girl’s coming of age, it was affirmation of her social attractiveness. The way my friends put it, natural hair was like slavery in a headband and emancipation was only a kitty kit away. So I chose freedom the first chance I got. Rocked my store bought emancipation until I found myself rocking a comb over, ultimately being forced to shave my hair off from all the damage. Despite being natural the majority of my life, I never had anything to call it, no formal way to explain it to perplexed onlookers, both Black and White alike. That was, until the Natural Hair Movement. For the first time in my life I wasn’t the girl who needed to “do something with that head”. I was a part of something much bigger, the global redefining of Black beauty as we saw fit. But just as I was starting to celebrate this new coming together for Black women, I realized that this movement was tearing us further apart.

In 1909, Black hair would forever be changed when a man named Garrett Augustus Morgan made an exciting discovery while experimenting with chemical compounds to solve an ongoing problem in his tailor shop, scorched fabric due to needle friction. Not only did Morgan find the perfect chemical blend to reduce friction, but he also discovered that when applied to the fabric itself, the mystery compound straightened the hairs on the fabric. After a few tests on his unsuspecting neighbor’s dog…

Arah Iloabugichukwu

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