Recent years have seen the conversation around black hair reach tipping point, yet detractors still proclaim 'it's only hair!' when it never is. This book is about why black hair matters and how it can be viewed as a blueprint for decolonisation. The author takes us from pre-colonial Africa, through the Harlem Renaissance, Black Power and into today's Natural Hair Movement, the Cultural Appropriation Wars and beyond. We look at the trajectory from hair capitalists like Madam CJ Walker in the early 1900s to the rise of Shea Moisture today, touching on everything from women's solidarity and friendship, to forgotten African scholars, to the dubious provenance of Kim Kardashian's braids.
The scope of black hairstyling ranges from pop culture to cosmology, from prehistoric times to the (afro)futuristic. Uncovering sophisticated indigenous mathematical systems in black hair styles, alongside styles that served as secret intelligence networks leading enslaved Africans to freedom, Don't Touch My Hair proves that far from being only hair, black hairstyling culture can be understood as an allegory for black oppression and, ultimately, liberation.