It is Black History month and I am stifling my urge to rant about why it has to fall on the shortest month of the year. I am also refraining arguing a good case on why our historical contributions should be celebrated all year round.

But instead of trying to preach, I’m going to teach.

Taking advantage of this month-long focus on black history allows me to share some interesting moments in black hairstory:

Contrary to popular belief, the ‘weapon of nap destruction,’ more commonly known as the hot comb, was not invented by businesswoman Madame C. J. Walker. Madame Walker’s "mane" claim to fame was the line of black hair care products that she developed for black women. The hot comb was invented in France, circa 1845, but Madame Walker can be credited with popularizing it in the United States in the 1900s when she sold black women on the concept of the "press and curl." Her business acumen made her the first female American self-made millionaire, according to the Guinness Book of World Records where she was listed in 1910. In 1998, the United States Postal Service honored Madame Walker by issuing a commemorative stamp with her image.

Michael Jackson’s ‘nap denial’ catches up with him in 1984 during the filming of a Pepsi commercial. A special effects mishap caused sparks to ‘activate’ the oil slick on his curly perm and his hair caught on fire.

In 1986, Cheryl Tatum was a cashier for the Hyatt Regency in a suburb of Washington, D.C. when she resigned from her job after being told that her cornrow hairstyle was unacceptable and she was at risk of being fired. She filed a discrimination complaint against the hotel with the Equal Opportunity Commission and won.
In 1999, curators of the Smithsonian Institution officially integrated the Afro into the American cultural heritage. The hairstyle, also referred to as a ‘fro, ‘bush,’ and
a ‘natural,’ came out during the late 1960s and for many became statement more than style. Barber and stylist Nathan Mathis, also known as “Nat the Bush Doctor,” gained popularity for his knack with styling the Afro, but it was the Afro-wearing activist Angela Davis, who raised its profile as a symbol of black power in 1970 when her image appeared on the FBI’s 10 ‘most wanted’ list.

The following year, Melba Tolliver, a black correspondent for the ABC affiliate in New York, was promptly booted from her television assignment for wearing an Afro when she covered Tricia Nixon’s wedding.

Until next time, celebrate your hairitage and stay true to your ‘do!