Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management
Apparel, Merchandising, and Design
Sara B. Marcketti
This research examined the Civil Rights Movement, specifically focusing on hair and beauty choices of African American women who were emerging adults (ages 18-25), between the years 1960-1974, which bridges both the classical period of the Civil Rights Movement and that of Black Power politics (Wilson, 2013). The specific time period corresponds with the adoption of African American hairstyles that were more Afrocentric, following the social climate of Black Pride (Walker, 2007). To achieve understanding of African American women's perspectives, seven participants were interviewed using Seidman's (2013) protocol for which a three-part, in-depth interview series was conducted. The successive interviews concentrated on the themes of: 1) hair history throughout their lives, 2) details of experiences during the Civil Rights Movement years 1960-74, and 3) creating reflections on the meaning of hairstyle choices in the participant's life.
This dissertation followed a non-traditional format that allowed for the completion of two scholarly articles related to African American women's hair. Article one: Ages and stages: African American women and their lives through their hair, examines participants' presentations of self. Communication of meaning and values associated with dress were negotiated between the participants and others, which resulted in their choices of presentation. Goffman's (1959) discussion of the presentation of self was used to explain how marginalized groups strive to act appropriately or ideally to dominant standards and power groups. Participants described how they chose their hairstyles and dress for varying audiences and settings. Their presentation of self was highly influenced by the intersectional subject positions held by the participants, reflecting larger hegemonic norms in U.S. society.
Article two: Collective resistance of the natural: An exploration of African American women's exhibition of Black pride through their hairstyles, explored aspects of new social movement theory to explain how the participants formed a collective identity associated with the Civil Rights Movement, specifically in aspects of Black Pride and solidarity during the 1960s and 1970s. Participants discussed how their hair choices reflected the movement's ideology and the newly adopted Black aesthetic. Their activism, traditional and less overt, informed and mirrored the construction of a collective identity through aspects of identifying with ideologies of the Black Pride/Power Movement, a raised consciousness toward the African American status in U.S. society, and changing associations and interactions as a result of the movement and other shifts in politics and social aspects.
The findings of this study offer insight into African American women's relationship with their hair and the effect of the Civil Rights Movement on their hair throughout their lives.
Ashley R. Garrin
Garrin, Ashley R., "Hair and beauty choices of African American women during the Civil Rights Movement, 1960-1974" (2016). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 15161.