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How many decades and generations have zoomed by where African-American children sobbed crocodile tears, and black women cringed while getting their nappy hair combed?
If you study the vintage photographs of our ancestors combing someone’s hair, you’ll observe the procedure was pain-free. There aren’t any tears, cringing shoulders, or frowns displayed.
Unfortunately, we distanced ourselves from the Africans on the pages of the National Geographic magazines, and the old world history books. For the reason, we were ashamed of their peppercorn afros, elaborate braided hairstyles, clay/mud laden locks, black skin, nakedness, and the narratives of others about them.* Even though the famous European fashion houses, jewelry designers, cosmetic firms, and visual artists gleaned ideas from those photos.
The acceptance of the age-old adage, "Beauty is pain," was our mantra from one generation to the next. It makes me shudder when I think all those years of pain and suffering were unnecessary. If only we’d studied the vintage photographs of the ancestors combing their hair.
Do you realize we only learned the proper way of combing our nappy hair in the last 15 to 25 years in America? The procedure entails combing the ends of the hair strands first, and then working the comb toward the hair follicles.
It is my belief the Divine Spirit ushered those vintage photographs through time and space. So, the future generations of the kidnapped Africans would have tutorials. In order to learn about the art of farming, grooming, beautification, and healing, etc. from the original source.
I think it’s wonderful private university libraries, historical societies, and the cultural departments of governments are digitizing the vintage African photographs for public access.
However, the emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds are in the private photo collections, and libraries of the wealthy as well as at the Vatican Library. (I would love to get a peek at those photographs).
* Dr. Leo Hansberry setup the first Classical African studies program in the early 1920s at Howard University. So, there was an interest in Africa by black folks, but not on a grand scale and possibly the existence of some Classical African study groups.
For those who would argue African Americans lacked access to books and magazines because of segregation laws and therefore couldn’t pursue research about their hair. Please note during the era of segregation bookmobiles, segregated library reading rooms, one-day-a-week library service, and the black women’s social clubs acquired books, magazines, etc. for the black communities.
In the early 1900s, Madame C. J. Walker's pomades and hot combs eased the process of straightening dry nappy hair, but Walker lacked a solution for lessening the difficulty of combing wet nappy hair.
Copyright © 2021 I. Cowthern. All Rights Reserved.
"Ain't too proud to beg." Please donate at : www.paypal.me/ICowthern
While searching the Internet for images of Africans photographed in the late 1800s to 1930s, I recalled visiting the Getty’s photo exhibition of African-American slaves, and the strange incident that occurred.
The ocean glittered like bath crystals along the Pacific Coast Highway, and the sun was sticking out its chest that afternoon. Although it was bustling inside the exhibition room, I could scrutinize all the photographs without an irritant pressuring me to move along.
I observed that despite my ancestors' enslavement, raggedy clothing, heavy workloads, and disgraceful treatment, a deep self-esteem and magnificent dignity oozed from them as well as a blazing determination within their dark brown orbs from another world.
Although an enslaved man, woman, or child couldn't express outrage toward their owner, however, their black and gray wooly hair whether tucked beneath headcloths or hats, knotted into small clusters of balls as if yarn, braided, or running amok like the leaves on green onions certainly did.
While viewing a photo of a pre-teen black girl standing beside a little blond girl, I suddenly felt myself floating through the glass frame. After that, I was standing near the girls. The sun was burning my skin and the dark green grass glowed like a dark green emerald. I stared at the children and they peered back at me. A moment later, I was back at the Getty's exhibition room, and the coolness of the air-conditioned room soothed me.
Did I imagine myself on the plantation? Or was I transported there? I don't know. It’s quite unsettling how the mind stores traumatic or unusual events for years. And the incident bubbles up, or becomes uprooted by the senses, or by someone’s comments, or a routine activity.
If or when an ancestor from the other side of a picture frame or computer screen asks me, "How does it feel to be free?" I will say, "There’s a constant gnawing the rug will be yanked from beneath your feet."
I left the Getty Museum in Malibu teary-eyed.
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I'm I. Cowthern -- I enjoy watching old black and white movies and listening to jazz, pop, rock, R&B, and classical music.