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Nap Time: Historicizing the Afro

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Kelley states that the afro has clearly been the most powerful symbol of Black Power style politics; examines the history of the Afro, and how its meaning has changed over time. Kelley argues that the very discourse that endowed the Afro with political meaning has also profoundly obscured crucial aspects of its history that might call into question its Black Power Roots. The article explores the problems of a "politics of style" approach that views the Afro through the limited view of mid-1960s, phallocentric black nationalist politics. It offers an alternative narrative that considers the experiments of black women intellectuals of an earlier era as well as the efforts by black hair professionals to write their own histories of the Afro. Kelley concludes that Afro was accompanied by "texts" that set out to establish meaning. The political contexts in which the afro became popular, and the meaning that black activists, hairstylists, and ordinary black people gave the Afro led to a re-writing of the history of black hair. "Hair activists" characterized the afro as a direct challenge to the dominant culture.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 1997

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