This Day in History: Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United Sates. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Box braids didn’t become popular until the early 80′s when the GOAT Patrice Rushen took to the R&B and jazz scene
But at the time, they weren’t really called “box braids.” They were individual braids inspired by North African cultural aesthetics, especially Egyptian. However, box braids have their roots in our home region, West Africa as well.
Early on, you saw a peep of these beautiful, intricate hairstyle in the late 70′s from the female singers in Oddysey and S.O.S. Band
I believe both singers from these bands appeared with these hairstyles in the year 1977. So box braids have been here in African-American culture for a LONG time. It just didn’t really become a fad until the early 90′s because before then, these hairstyles were looked at as “trippy” Afrocentric hairstyles that artists would wear to get in touch with their African roots. The 80′s was a time where a lot of African-American artists’ fashion were inspired by West and North African roots.
At the turn of the decade, you began to see box braids become more mainstream with Janet Jackson, Naomi Campbell’s ethereal ass, rapper Yo-Yo, and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Then in the mid 90′s, Stacey Dash makes braids en vogue by sporting the famous look in Clueless.
All the middle to upper-class girl caught on to box braids because of this but who should really get credit is the incomparable, Brandy Norwood!
Ask for “Moesha” at the hair salon, and it was say no more.
Mariah’s white-passing ass tried them on for size in her Thank God I Found You remix video and they looked dope!
And then here comes sexy stemme Alicia Keys bringing back our great-great-great North African ancestry in 2001
She made cornrows cool for all the black girls in grade school!
And I almost forgot! Beyonce really made kinky twists hot in the early ‘00s as well
Always looking like somebody’s cool redbone cousin rollin’ up at the family cookout
Then Christina Aguilera tried to join in on the fun, but we said, “Nah, sweetie. You Latinx but you not afro honey. But you look cute sis”
*fast forward to several years later*
Unfortunately, box braids were no longer as popular as they were in the early ‘00s. Bad, synthetic weaves dyed a tacky brown were in from 2004-2008.
But in early 2013, box braids had a revival!
Thank you, Keri Hilson! You may not be shit, but you did that thing! I always said you was my hair-fashion icon tho. I can’t stunt on you.
We had Zoe Kravitz make braids cool for the edgy, sarcastic and loner black girls like me!
Soon, we saw so many pictures of black girls modeling box braids on Tumblr and Instagram!
Solange soon rocks these braids because she’s hip and poppin’
Then Christina Milan being Afro-Latina, she had to get in on this
Even Tia or Tamera
Soon, these 90′s R&B girls came back for a reunion with their beautiful, braided locs!
We all saw Ayesha Curry try to butter up to the black female community by taking an adorable selfie with her mama
Now we got Instagram models and actresses making braids en vogue!
(Babyhairs aren’t mandatory and I recommend women with type 4 hair to get these styles. If you are under, I wouldn’t keep these in for very long)
So now box braids are everywhere, and they are the go-to for a black girl’s protective style, especially if they have my hair type! But anyone who is black and of African descent can wear them. You don’t have to have tightly-coiled hair to wear these, but they are what the styles are intended for since the hair is apt for them.
And notice something else; none of these styles were coined or invented by white or non-black women. They were all made and adorned by black women. And Patrice Rushen is the Godmother of protective styles. Don’t whitewash these!
In honor of Black History Month, Motown, a record company founded by Berry Gordy in 1960 in Detroit, Mi., helped to put African American artists such as Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder on the maps.
“The black artist cannot live in a revisionist place. The black artist can only tell the truth about humanity. Humanity is messy. People are messy. Caucasian actors know that. They understand that. They understand that when you bring a human being to life you show all the flaws as well as the beauty. We, as African American artists, are more concerned with image and message and not execution. Which is why every time you see our images they’ve been watered down to a point where they are not realistic at all. It’s like all of our humanity has been washed out. We as artists cannot be politicians. We as artists can only be truth tellers.”
A prominent name in the Harlem Renaissance movement, Augusta Savage was not just an artist, but also an important Civil Rights activist.
While Augusta showed a passion for art at a very young age, her religious father disapproved greatly. She never let her family’s opinions deter her, as she continued to refine her talents and accepted encouragement elsewhere. Her talent and hardwork did not go ignored, as she enrolled in tuition-free Cooper Union and even received a scholarship which covered living expenses. However, as clearly gifted as Augusta was, many could not see past her race. After completing her schooling, she applied for an art program in France, and was rejected due to her race. Rather than let her set this back, she used her experience to draw attention to these hateful prejudices.
Augusta was finally able to travel and become even more well-known as she received fellowships and grants which allowed her to travel over Europe, later returning to a poor America as the Great Depression was in full effect. Commissions were lacking during this time, but it did not slow Augusta. She opened a studio in 1932, became the first black artist to join the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, and was a founding member of the Harlem Artists’ Guild.
By the time of her death, in the 1960’s, Augusta Savage was almost completely forgotten and was far from a famous name at the time. Thankfully, she is remembered today for her Civil Rights achievements through art.
Above: Bust of Gwendolyn Knight, who was a close friend of Augusta, one of her most famous busts: Gamin (1929), and The Harp (1939). The Harp, also known as Lift Every Voice and Sing, was created for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It was extremely popular, but was destroyed with the other installations at the end of the event.
In celebration of Juneteenth, here are some striking illustrations by James I. DeLoache for Negro Heroes of Emancipation, a book researched and written by Mildred Bond and published by the NAACP as part of its celebration for the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation.
African-American soldiers in the Civil War
“This has been a labor of love for Mr. DeLoache, who has had as a lifelong interest the visual depiction of the Negro’s struggle for identity and achievement.”