Where did Braids Originate?
Braids are a very well known hair style the Black culture has utilized for decades and generations for children to adults and even elders to maintain and style our natural curls, kinks, and coils. However, as various stylists create new ways and styles with braids, let’s take a look at where braids originated, how it’s helped our community and shaped our culture throughout the centuries.
The history of braids goes back to 3000BC Africa, along the Saharian desert and 3500BC documented along the River Nile in ancient burial grounds and the Himba people of Namibia. Braids often helped determine which tribe a person belonged to. Warriors and kings wore styles like cornrows to show their status. Braid patterns could also be used to identify a person’s marital status, age, power, wealth, or religion. Elders would often teach children braided styles, who would then show their friends and other family members using this as a way to socialize. Other cultures, such as Native Americans and people in China and Greece, have some form of braids as well to represent their wealth, power, status, and other relations to their culture.
Throughout slavery, African slaves kept up the tradition of hair braiding as a way to send messages to other slaves and created maps that would be used to find pathways to freedom. The progression of braids began to transition from a means of safety to show creativity, as various styles from African and other cultures became more popular, getting closer to modern times. However, the fight to have braids become recognized globally for their longevity in world history goes on to current times.
Braids have helped Black people maintain and protect their hair from the elements. Sadly, the question of whether braids and overall natural curly and kinky hair is considered professional in the workplace has been a fight many have fought within government in the last few years. The idea of Black or curly hair not being considered professional, although it naturally grows out of the heads of many, is offensive to the Black identity. Within 2021, the United States government passed a bill banning the discrimination against Black hairstyles known as the Crown Act. Although progress has been made with this bill being passed, it still shows how much farther as a nation the United States of America has to come in order to recognize Black culture as important to its identity.
What braided hairstyles do you enjoy? Let us know in the comments below.
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