Shocking History: Why Women of Color in the 1800s Were Banned From Wearing Their Hair in Public

"…a “law” of sorts that demanded women of color in Louisiana to cover their hair with a fabric cloth starting in 1789 as a part of what was called the Bando du buen gobierno (Edict for Good Government).  What these rules were meant to do was try to curtail the growing influence of the free black population and keep the social order of the time. The edict included sections specifically about the changing of certain “unacceptable” behaviors of the free black women in the colony including putting an end to what he and others believed to be the overly ostentatious hairstyles of these ladies which drew the attention of white men, and the jealousy of white women. These rules are called the “Tignon Laws” A tignon (pronounced “tiyon”) is a headdress.

Apparently, women of color were wearing their hair in such fabulous ways, adding jewels and feathers to their high hairdos and walking around with such beauty and pride that it was obscuring their status. This was very threatening to the social stability (read: white population) of the area at the time. The law was meant to distinguish women of color from their white counterparts and to minimize their beauty.

Black and multi racial women began to adopt the tignon, but not without a little ingenuity. Many tied the tignon in elaborate ways and used beautiful fabrics and other additions to the headdress to make them appealing. In the end, what was meant to draw less attention to them made these ladies even more beautiful and alluring.

This bit of history only makes me feel even more proud about wearing my natural hair out or in pretty head wraps.

My take away: We should realize and embrace the inherent beauty of our blackness and all that makes us unique, especially our hair. Even history teaches us it’s all so notably beautiful!”

Read the article here

On Kanazawa, Black Women & Being “Fine” & “Well-Made” by Nuñez Daughter

In 1779, on the island Haiti when it was still Saint-Domingue, the Attorney General of Cap Français (Le Cap) passed a statute prohibiting certain modes of dress well known among the free women of color on the island. The statute was part of a series of laws appearing through out the 1760s and into the 1780s, all meant to legislate the dress, behavior, sexual appeal, and general attractiveness of women of African descent.

This turned out to be an uphill battle. For example, when the Superior Council of Le Cap passed a law forbidding women of color from wearing shoes, “they then appeared in sandals, with diamonds on the toes of their feet.” 

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African Mistress // 1953// Louis Charles Royer

Post inspired by @Queen_LaQueefa and @bad_dominicana and all the other ladies tweet chatting, from these tweets on the history of jealous white women and the degradation of black female bodies and ensuing discussion on Tignon Laws :

@bad_dominicana

white women literally had laws made so black women had to cover hair w scarves,wear masks&forbidden frm nice clothes. but u call us jealous?

@bad_dominicana

5h

@noir_etoile7 labeling me a jezebel who outshone the white bride in a plain dress, coz im the only woc & they mans was lookin.

Erica Herrington ‏@HazelGoddess4h

@InADash @bad_dominicana Learning about the Tignon Laws was literally life changing for me. The things you won’t learn in school.

Pippy LongNipples ‏@Queen_LaQueefa3h

@HazelGoddess @brownivy @JanvierNoir @bad_dominicana @InADash And blaming the black woman for white men’s lustful behavior. GTFO!

I’m side-eyeing the etsy post that I got the pics from though: http://www.etsy.com/listing/174142990/african-mistress-vintage-interracial

"Apparently, women of color were wearing their hair in such fabulous ways, adding jewels and feathers to their high hairdos and walking around with such beauty and pride that it was obscuring their status. This was very threatening to the social stability (read: white population) of the area at the time. The law was meant to distinguish women of color from their white counterparts and to minimize their beauty.

Black and multi racial women began to adopt the tignon, but not without a little ingenuity. Many tied the tignon in elaborate ways and used beautiful fabrics and other additions to the headdress to make them appealing. In the end, what was meant to draw less attention to them made these ladies even more beautiful and alluring.”

Creole Women and the Tignon

In 1785, there was a sumptuary law passed in New Orleans. These laws were called the Tignon laws. They were laws that required all black women, whether enslaved or freed, to wear their hair covered with headdresses and scarves and to refrain from “excessive attention to dress” in order to maintain class distinctions.

These laws came into place because in the French Quarter, many blacks and whites would coexist…during the day. Many of these black women were Placées or known mistresses to the French and Spanish men. The men often went and flirted with the black women. This caused white wives, mothers, sisters, and fiancées of these men to feel a certain bit of competition between themselves and the black women. 

 The complaint that got this law passed was that the white men mistook some of the upper class white women for the women of color and flirtatiously accosted them. Most of the black women being referred to, were mixed-race and of a light complexion.

So to fix this problem, they passed the Tignon laws, requiring women of color to put their hair up and wrap it with scarves. However, these women got creative with their short end of the stick. The began to find the nicest fabric and use jewels and ribbons to decorate their scarves. They began wearing gold earrings with their tignons and developed a fashionable style that we still see today. These women continued to be pursued by the French and Spanish Creole men.

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Color IS Our Hair-i-tage series
Research by Michele Ivey


Head Wrapping: How It All Started…

Head covering laws - ‘Tignon Laws’ - demanded women of color in Louisiana to cover their hair with a fabric cloth starting in 1785, by Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miró, as a part of what was called the Edict for Good Government.

The Tignon is a headdress - (pronounced “Tiy-On”) was the mandatory headwear for Creole women in Louisiana during the Spanish colonial period, and the style was adopted throughout the Caribbean island communities as well.

This regulated appropriate public dress for females of color in colonial society, where some women of color & some white women tried to outdo each other in beauty, dress, ostentation and manners.

What these rules were meant to do was try to curtail the growing influence of the free black population and keep the social order of the time.
The Tignon Laws was a part the changing of certain “unacceptable” behaviors of the free black women in the colony including putting an end to what he and others believed to be the overly ostentatious hairstyles of these ladies which drew the attention of white men, and the jealousy of white women.

In 1786, while Louisiana was a Spanish colony, the governor forbade: “females of color … to wear plumes or jewelry”; this law specifically required “their hair bound in a kerchief.”
But the women, who were targets of this decree, were inventive & imaginative with years of practice.

As usual, Women of Color rose above the oppression by decorating their mandated tignons, made of the finest textiles, with jewels, ribbons, & feathers to once again outshine their white counterparts.

Shortly after, women of color found tignons to be a health benefit as well.
During the era of ‘black slaves picking cotton’, many black women found if they ‘greased the scalp’ with oil and wrapped their heads - they were less likely to attract bugs, lice, and ringworm thus maintaining healthy Skincare and hair care !

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