tignon woman of color

Wom­an in Tignon cred­it

Did you know that in late 18th cen­tu­ry Louisiana, black and mul­tira­cial wom­en were ordered to cov­er their hair in pub­lic?” My sis­ter asked me.

WOW. Real­ly?” I replied.

I’d prob­a­bly heard of this in one of my black stud­ies class­es in under­grad, but who remem­bers every­thing they’ve been taught? Besides, this infor­ma­tion felt instant­ly rel­e­vant and I was absolute­ly intrigued.

It wasn’t unusu­al for me to feel myself gain­ing brain cells while in con­ver­sa­tion with my sis­ters, but by the time I caught my rac­ing thoughts so I could ask her some ques­tions, it was time to take care of my baby girl. I knew, how­ev­er that this was a top­ic worth vis­it­ing again.

With a lit­tle dig­ging I found that there was in fact 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.

woman of color tignon 2

Cred­it

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!

Have you heard of any addi­tion­al laws specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ing black wom­en of the past?

Cas­san­dre Bec­cai: Just anoth­er nat­u­ral­is­ta play­ing by my own rules!

To read more:

Clin­ton, Cather­ine and Michele Gille­spie. Sex and Race in the Ear­ly South. New   York: Orx­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1997.

Fos­set, Judith Jack­son and Jef­frey A. Tuck­er. Race Con­scious­ness. New York: New York Uni­ver­si­ty Press. 1997.

Roman, Miri­am Jimenez and Juan Flo­res. The Afro-Latin@ Read­er His­to­ry and Cul­ture in the Unit­ed States. Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2010.

Tignon of Colo­nial Lou­siana” http://medianola.org/ Jeila Mar­t­in Ker­shaw Web. 5 July 2014

Roberts, Kev­in David, B.A.; M.A. Slaves and Slav­ery in Louisiana:

The Evo­lu­tion of Atlantic World Iden­ti­ties, 1791–1831. Diss. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Tex­as at Austin, 2003.

Leave a Reply

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

Notify of
avatar
trackback

[…] Bey don­ning a Badu-like head­wrap with a tan­gle in a front fram­ing her pleas­ing face. Cen­turies ago, black Amer­i­can wom­en were banned from wear­ing their hair out in pub­lic. So, many wore their hair in col­or­ful Tignons or wraps to […]

trackback

[…] Bey don­ning a Badu-like head­wrap with a tan­gle in a front fram­ing her pleas­ing face. Cen­turies ago, black Amer­i­can wom­en were banned from wear­ing their hair out in pub­lic. So, many wore their hair in col­or­ful Tignons or wraps to […]

trackback

[…] Bey don­ning a Badu-like head­wrap with a tan­gle in a front fram­ing her pleas­ing face. Cen­turies ago, black Amer­i­can wom­en were banned from wear­ing their hair out in pub­lic. So, many wore their hair in col­or­ful Tignons or wraps to […]

trackback

[…] ordered to cov­er their hair in pub­lic?” asks Cas­san­dre Bec­cai (Check out her entire piece here : http://blackgirllonghair.com/2014/07/shocking-history-why-women-of-color-in-the-1800s-were-banned-fr…) she found a “law” of sorts that demand­ed wom­en of colour in Louisiana to cov­er their hair with […]

naynay

This goes to show now why the media and all the­se reports and sur­veys always define Black wom­en as unat­trac­tive, undat­a­ble, unmar­riage­able, and the notion that White wom­en are the most beau­ti­ful in the world in order to demean Black wom­en. Well Black wom­en, now you know that you are very beau­ti­ful, and your beau­ty has been noticed even dur­ing Slav­ery times in this coun­try. Why did you think that those White men had to have Black wom­en even if it took force because they desired them! That is just pro­pa­gan­da to keep Black wom­en down!

yolanda

It real­ly is because see­ing this arti­cle con­firms what ive always believed… Thry see who we are . they know we are beau­ti­ful and string. Thats why they must brain­wash oth­ers to not see it… Smh..

dante williams

I had no idea but I’m not sur­prised either. It seems like it was such anoth­er world back then, but then I see black wom­en still being shamed into wear­ing long wigs, exten­sions and weaves, and nat­u­ral hair being skew­ered, even among oth­er black wom­en. I hope the more peo­ple see what hap­pened back then that it will change their way of think­ing about hair and the con­cept of beau­ty.

Marisol

It seems like it was such anoth­er world back then”
____________________________________________
No love, it’s the same world, dif­fer­ent time. Noth­ing changed. It’s just orches­trat­ed dif­fer­ent­ly. Don’t believe the hype

dante williams

I said ‘it seems,’ not ‘it was.’

Granny Nuggs

Jew­els and feath­ers in their hair? I bet some of them were absolute­ly gor­geous. I hope the style makes a resur­gence.

Jennifer Williams
As a white wom­an, with baby-fine, straw­ber­ry blonde hair (I am of Irish and Ger­man decent), I am often envi­ous of wom­en of col­or. I love the elab­o­rate hair­styles they pull off with such beau­ty and grace. I know there are many of them who have extensions…but still! I hon­est­ly think white wom­en can look ridicu­lous with the same extensions…mant times they will over­do it and it juat doesn’t work.  I have asked many wom­en of col­or how they acheive and main­tain their styles. I some­times won­der if I sound rude, but I’m just curi­ous. To all ladies of color…from… Read more »
Long Ben Avery

And a jeal­ous, bald old white guy!

Marisol

Jen­nifer, this might sur­prise you, but most of the nat­u­ral hair­styles that you see are just that…Natural. When you see hair piled on top of hair then that’s when you know you’re deal­ing with exten­sions. Black hair will grow just as long or longer than your hair when it’s kept nat­u­ral and free of all the bull­shit chem­i­cals that are some­times used…

Ina Plassa-travis

there’s not a lot of doc­u­men­ta­tion besides the idea of braid­ed crowns — the artists who were will­ing to work with the Free Blacks and the Quadroon com­mu­ni­ty also had to deal with the jeal­ousy guard­ed social lines…but it’s inter­est­ing that you would under­stand a dress code again­st Baro­que hair­styles, even if they were only enforced upon one group. (Feast of All Saints is lov­ing­ly researched, if you can deal with Anne Rice)

Carol Schell
Actu­al­ly, the law goes fur­ther back in time and was rein­stat­ed by the Span­ish gov­er­nor of New Orleans. Notice it was French and Span­ish gov­ern­ments who insti­tut­ed the orders.: http://www.frenchcreoles.com/ArtTheater/tignon/origins%20of%20tignon.htm Not long after the found­ing of New Orleans in 1718, the French colonists intro­duced a slave law (the 1724 Code Noir) which forced new­ly arrived Africans into a life­time of servi­tude. By 1786, the increas­ing assertive­ness of black New Orlea­ni­ans and the grow­ing num­bers of free blacks alarmed Span­ish offi­cials. The then Span­ish Gov­er­nor attempt­ed to restrict black mobil­i­ty by sup­press­ing free black assem­blies and ban­ning con­cu­bi­nage. He pro­hib­it­ed slaves… Read more »
Priscilla Buckson

The law, accord­ing to my grand­moth­er, was start­ed so the white peo­ple would be able to tell the light skinned cre­ole octoroons and quadroons from white wom­en. Many of the­se mixed wom­en were beau­ti­ful beyond belief and attract­ed white men to con­tract for them dur­ing the quadroons balls. The desire to “put them in their place” came as a result of too many instances of mis­tak­en iden­i­ty.

trackback

[…] white wom­en would often hack off the hair of their enslaved female ser­vants because it sup­pos­ed­ly “con­fused white men” […]

trackback

[…] white wom­en would often hack off the hair of their enslaved female ser­vants because it sup­pos­ed­ly “con­fused white men” […]

trackback

[…] white wom­en would often hack off the hair of their enslaved female ser­vants because it sup­pos­ed­ly “con­fused white men” […]

trackback

[…] del Norte leyes que oblig­a­ban a las mujeres africanas a ocul­tar su pelo con un pañuelo. Las Tignon Laws de Luisiana bus­ca­ban «preser­var la moral­i­dad públi­ca» evi­tan­do que se pro­du­je­sen rela­ciones […]

trackback

[…] del Norte leyes que oblig­a­ban a las mujeres africanas a ocul­tar su pelo con un pañuelo. Las Tignon Laws­de Luisiana bus­ca­ban «preser­var la moral­i­dad públi­ca» evi­tan­do que se pro­du­je­sen rela­ciones […]

trackback

[…] La ques­tion de la tex­ture des cheveux des Noirs (de grâce, ne dites pas « eth­niques ») ne date pas d’hier. Au temps de l’esclavage, les femmes blanch­es coupaient sou­vent les cheveux de leurs esclaves femmes, sous pré­tex­te que cela « trou­blait l’homme blanc ». […]

trackback

[…] La ques­tion de la tex­ture des cheveux des Noirs (de grâce, ne dites pas « eth­niques ») ne date pas d’hier. Au temps de l’esclavage, les femmes blanch­es coupaient sou­vent les cheveux de leurs esclaves femmes, sous pré­tex­te que cela « trou­blait l’homme blanc ». […]

trackback

[…] noth­ing new, nor are the stig­mas asso­ci­at­ed with black hair. His­tor­i­cal­ly, black wom­en have endured Tignon laws, mak­ing it ille­gal to show their hair in pub­lic. Employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion again­st any style that […]

yolanda

Had noo idea.. Wow thanks for this. Will be shar­ing..

trackback

[…] white wom­en would often hack off the hair of their enslaved female ser­vants because it sup­pos­ed­ly “con­fused white men” […]

1 6 7 8
wpDiscuz