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
Aunt Bon

The head scarves were also used to dis­tin­guish very fair mixed women(who were con­sid­ered black even if they were 90% white)from white wom­en. Because God for­bid that black wom­an would have been treat­ed with respect by any white per­son.

taj-akoben

they just hate me ’cause they ain’t me
[imgcomment image[/img]

kat

A blog­ger who includes REFERENCES?! <3

Abbigail

I minored in African Amer­i­can Stud­ies in under­grad and received my Master’s in Africana Stud­ies in grad school and have nev­er come across this phe­nom­e­non pri­or to read­ing this arti­cle. Thanks for the info! Great arti­cle by the way.

Sarita
Com­ing from New Orleans, I am well aware of this all-telling law. I learned of it as a stu­dent at Tulane and was shocked at first. But it was tru­ly an eye-open­er. I am glad your read­ers get to learn about this his­to­ry and know that they are revered. Some may deny it and try to demean us because our hair is quite dif­fer­ent than theirs. But truth be told, our hair has always been beau­ti­ful. It’s our own fault that we gave in to their lies about our hair. At least now we are learn­ing and see­ing a change… Read more »
it'slashantell

Black wom­en should cor­po­rate­ly come to togeth­er to cel­e­brate this…perhaps a spe­cial day cel­e­brat­ed once a year where we wear tignons. This would be a great way for the black cul­ture to unite.

JerseyGirl

yessss!!!

ladyg11

Ooo I real­ly like this idea. Shot make it week!

M'Karyl Gaynor

Check out the South Car­oli­na Negro Slave Act of 1735 and the South Car­oli­na Grand Jury of 1745. The­se were sump­tu­ary laws restrict­ing how slaves could dress and what they could wear. The SC Grand Jury con­vened in 1745 to deter­mine why poor black slave wom­en wear dress­ing bet­ter than poor white wom­en. It was deter­mined that it was because they were either steal­ing the cloth­ing or sleep­ing with white men to get it.

Yayla

“Sleep­ing with white men or steal­ing”?? Oh dear, that’s bring­ing flash­backs of tha scene with Pat­sy from the bril­liant film
“12 years a slave” when she returns with That small bar of soap to her jeal­ous, paranoid/lunatic white slave own­er. I think the film should be shown in all sec­ondary schools to edu­cate every­one.

liz

His­tor­i­cal­ly, white peo­ple have always searched and searched for ways to “prove” how infe­ri­or we were. Act­ing like a Euro­pean was just so hard, there was no WAY we could have done it, right? lmao, they make me roll my eyes.

lv

A M A Z I N G! Black wom­en and our hair are amaz­ing

Temple

But, no, let’s allow white wom­en to co-opt OUR nat­u­ral hair move­ment, tho…They’ve been through so much sociopo­lit­i­cal strug­gle in regards to their hair. Almost as much as Black wom­en have gone through!!!

Ava Monroe

So, Hebrew wom­en are sup­pose to have their hair wrapped, espe­cial­ly when they pray, but you don’t know any­thing about that because you fell into the belief that we orig­i­nat­ed from Africa, and know noth­ing about your Israeli ances­tors.

O

Learn about African his­to­ry not just about Arabs.

Tshaddy

You’re reach­ing and know noth­ing of your african back­ground so you pick and chose a bunch of bull­shit to cre­ate you iden­ti­ty. Pleas drop your bust­ed ankh.
How are Ortho­dox (EUROPEAN) jew­ish tra­di­tions part of our her­itage?
Israeli ances­tor??? Israel didn’t exist until 1945!!

PLEASE

lis

Interesting.…lol.some people.…..an ortho­dox Jew or Hasidic told a friend of mine that every­one knows the orig­i­nal Jews in the bible were (shock!!!!!!.….Black. Some of the old­est Chris­tian church­es are in Ethiopia.….Christianity left Africa and then came back.…..also..forget it

Tiffany

You missed the point of the arti­cle entirely.…Or are you inten­tion­al­ly being obtuse? THIS is a prime exam­ple of why me must research our own his­to­ry and not just read the stuff that is fed us in the pub­lic school sys­tem

runantellthat

Jew­ish peo­ple spoke/speak HEBREW nut case. How is WEST Africa even relat­ed to the HEBREW speak­ing lan­guage i will nev­er know? Peo­ple in the Nation of Islam or the Nation of Yah­weh non­sense are so retard­ed.

lis

Hebrew and Ara­bic are semit­ic languages…both of the­se lan­guages are relat­ed to/similar to the semit­ic lan­guages of Ethiopia.….Ethiopia is the moth­er of Egyp­tian civilization.….christ

runantellthat
We are not Jew­ish!! Our peo­ple were NEVER JEWISH!!! i wish you brain washed morons would stop spread­ing that lie. The bible is a lie and any black per­son who believes in being Jew­ish or orig­i­nal Jews should be ashamed of them­selves. where in West Africa were peo­ple JEWISH?? We are talk­ing about the slaves and they were Yoruba Princess­es and Ashan­ti War­riors you weirdo. Has noth­ing to do with being an Israelite. You are the dumb one that doesn’t know your own his­to­ry. Chris­tian­i­ty nor Judaism has noth­ing to do with West Africans. STUPID. WHite peo­ple forced the black… Read more »
straightnochaset

Can’t NO ONE wear and style a scarf like Black wom­en can. Amaz­ing but while try­ing to shut them down over wear­ing their hair out pub­li­cal­ly, they couldn’t shut down their cre­ativ­i­ty. Thanks for shar­ing!

Lakitha

Black wom­en exude unlim­it­ed beau­ty. From our fab­u­lous lush hair to our glowng skin. We can wear vibrant make­up col­ors like no oth­er. We can wear a pur­ple lip­stick and own it like no oth­er or a fuschia eye­shad­ow and com­mand atten­tion like no oth­er.

t.c.

But you see the­se sell-out black wom­en agree­ing with white wom­en talk­ing about “Oh, it’s just hair! Stop being so mean!” 

What an embar­rass­ment because those sis­tas obvi­ous­ly don’t even know their own his­to­ry.

Jenny

You are right–and I’m guilty of mak­ing the “its just hair” com­ments myself.
Obvi­ous­ly its not just hair. I wont be say­ing that any­more ;)

Knotty Natural

It’s not sur­pris­ing. Many of us new nat­u­rals were igno­rant at one point or anoth­er of our own hair but we’ve also been able to gain knowl­edge, but we were will­ing to learn. 

“My peo­ple parish for lack of knowl­edge”

African Empress

http://char.txa.cornell.edu/Griebel.htm
Read this arti­cle very inter­est­ing.

cryssi

This arti­cle was so awe­some and infor­ma­tive. I can’t wait to share this with oth­er wom­en of var­i­ous back­grounds that I know. It’s amaz­ing that even when they tried to hide our beau­ty all they did was make us shine more.

Tara G

Thank you so much for the his­to­ry of Tignon, I have nev­er heard of it until now. Wow! I am shar­ing this on my Face­book. :)

K10

Amaz­ing. I nev­er knew this, but we all know who writes the his­to­ry books…

Any­ways, this made me appre­ci­ate my nat­u­ral hair jour­ney even more. Now only if every Black wom­an and wom­an of col­or rec­og­nized their beauty..we’d shut the world down!!

Queen
I was lit­er­al­ly just hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about this with my moth­er. The idea that black wom­en are some­how “more jeal­ous” of non black wom­en, and how it’s com­plete utter BS con­sid­er­ing there was actu­al laws passed to “curb” our beau­ty & the atten­tion we received. And this is a per­son­al expe­ri­ence, so I hope I do not offend any­body by shar­ing, but this con­ver­sa­tion between my moth­er and I was brought on how when I entered a restau­rant (wear­ing a fab­u­lous curly wig that looks exact­ly like my own nat­u­ral tex­ture, just slight­ly “big­ger” in size) caused a table… Read more »
mlank64

I’m going to remem­ber this sto­ry.

Word

It’s nice that your mood changed from uneasy to proud with­in sec­onds. My 19 y/o sis­ter who is also nat­u­ral went to a restu­raunt and said white peo­ple just stared. The entire table’s focus silent­ly shiftred toward her and made her uncom­fort­able. I find that some people’s curios­i­ty can come off as rude. As old as I am, my par­ents would still scold me if I stared at peo­ple like that. Lol

Queen
Yeah I tried to remind myself their stares could have also been pos­i­tive, because you find a lot of times when you’re nat­u­ral, peo­ple will stare, and then often come up to you and com­pli­ment you lat­er. They did not, so I don’t know what their reac­tion was, but I def­i­nite­ly under­stand why your sis­ter felt uncom­fort­able! No one wants to be gawked at like a zoo ani­mal, smh. My mom stared the wom­en back down the entire time we were in the restau­rant lol just so they’d know how it felt! But I agree, no mat­ter how fas­ci­nat­ed I… Read more »
Yayla
Nev­er mind the star­ing (as if that wasn’t bad enough) I’ve put up for years with the inane, igno­rant, patro­n­is­ing and con­de­scend­ing ques­tions that I’ve been asked 10 dif­fer­ent ways by so many white col­leagues at work about my hair. From the embar­rass­ing to The down­right ridicu­lous. All asked with the same curios­i­ty you might see peo­ple have at the zoo when look­ing at a bizarre species of ani­mal. It speaks vol­umes of their her­itage and where they are com­ing from as a peo­ple. I once com­plet­ed a job inter­view, only to have the inter­view­er ask me (after all the… Read more »
runantellthat
I hear you sis, let me tell you something,I had big curly hair too, I’d grown my hair out a great deal when I first went nat­u­ral about 10 years ago. I didn’t get it, when white wom­en just stared at my hair like they had no sense in their head? I kept won­der­ing why the hell are the­se bish­es star­ing at my ass? I was like can you please stop start­ing at me!! at one point I prac­ti­cal­ly beat one white chick up! I didn’t know it was my big curly kinky hair!? Thanks for clar­i­fy­ing it. A few years… Read more »
Queen

Oops & Sor­ry, this is a dif­fer­ent “Queen” from the post above mine :) I didn’t notice you had used the same name, or I would’ve picked a dif­fer­ent one to avoid con­fu­sion lol.

Queen

Even they knew the beau­ty and pow­er of our hair and I am so hap­py more of us are embrac­ing it.

Rayvan

I was just telling my sis­ter about this. The doc­u­men­tary Dark Girls touched on this sub­ject. This is why nat­u­ral hair is so impor­tant. For hun­dreds of years we were told to cov­er our beau­ty, and that oth­er races were more beau­ti­ful and desir­able. Loved the arti­cle, thank you.

Knotty Natural

For all inter­est­ed, Dark Girls is now on Net­flix!

arnellie

wow!!!! this arti­cle was so amaz­ing­ly writ­ten and so infor­ma­tive!!! please keep writ­ing arti­cles like this!!! lov­ing this writer!

Honeybrown1976

I wish I could say I was sur­prised; but I’m not. Many of the rules again­st col­ored peo­ple were based on curbing the “white male gaze”, which threat­ened the myth of white female beauty/western stan­dards of beau­ty. Mis­ce­gena­tion laws were cre­at­ed only after men of col­or (read: black men) came over to North Amer­i­ca; oth­er­wise, white men were mat­ing with wom­en of col­or.

There’s always some­thing sin­is­ter behind laws. We must go deep­er. Thanks for shar­ing. (Hell, we rocked the scarves and they still looked! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t)

flouncingtart

I think “mat­ing with” implies con­sent, when often they would rape black (and indige­nous) wom­en. I think we should remem­ber that many of the­se wom­en could not con­sent under slav­ery and that many were also underaged/teenagers.

Honeybrown1976

True, as there wasn’t any real con­sent. Total­ly agree.

Nitocris

This is an inter­est­ing piece of our his­to­ry. To think the fas­ci­na­tion with our nat­u­ral hair goes so far back. I love that the wom­en turned the Tignon into a fash­ion item, it feels like a delib­er­ate mid­dle fin­ger to the ridicu­lous edict.

Fabiola

Please, please, please, please post more arti­cles like this. 

Awe­some read!

Prettydarkskinnedgirl
Prettydarkskinnedgirl

Yet anoth­er sto­ry of how wom­en of non-eth­nic back­ground felt threat­ened by our appear­ance. Now they’ve gone from envi­ous & threat­ened to envi­ous & emu­lat­ing. They copy our lips, our hair, our hips & our butts smh. What­ev­er race a wom­an is, she should embrace it & just thank God she’s a wom­an peri­od!
#doy­ou

Longpig

Black inge­nu­ity com­ing from way back! *cack­ling*

Poshnera

I love learn­ing infor­ma­tion like this. It’s so fun­ny because I look at both pic­tures and they still look fab­u­lous. If you’re born beau­ti­ful not even dirt can make you look bad! Thank you for the info.

Deedeemaha

I real­ly enjoyed this arti­cle. It was beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten.

The Natural Haven

Nice­ly writ­ten Cas­san­dre, makes me very curi­ous!

Jewels

You still wan­na com­pare a white women’s strug­gle to ours.

The Natural Haven
Don’t be sil­ly Jew­els, this is chalk and cheese. If you actu­al­ly read my words, I said that a jour­ney to self love where you were grow­ing up being told your hair was not good enough is some­thing that peo­ple can relate to regard­less of race. End of fini­to, I nev­er said white peo­ple can under­stand racism to the lev­el of some­one who has expe­ri­enced it.  Many of the com­ments here much like mine were unaware of this por­tion of his­to­ry, so it could not pos­si­bly have been a rel­e­vant part of the pre­vi­ous debate. Don’t spoil what is a real­ly… Read more »
#Adoseofreality
The only thing that’s sil­ly, Jc, (and down-right ludi­crous, to be hon­est) is your com­par­ison of Black women’s exclu­siv­i­ty in the NHM to APARTHEID in your recent arti­cle. Even before learn­ing of the­se Tignon laws, major­i­ty of us on this site were not obliv­i­ous to how White wom­en and Whites in gen­er­al have been resent­ful of our aes­thet­ics. I mean, that’s the whole REASON they have and con­tin­ue to force their beau­ty stan­dards on us (yes, even the White curlies/frizzies are guilty of this) because they KNOW that they CANNOT com­pete with Black wom­en in that regard. Why do you… Read more »
Andrea
Yes indeed seems like the south­ern laws even in the French prov­i­dence of Louisana were think­ing up all kinds of ludi­crous ideas and sanc­tions to scru­ti­nize the wom­en of col­or. Sup­pose it had a lot to do with the lib­er­ties of lax­ness that so many black and mètis wom­en had in this region. Most espe­cial­ly with inter­mar­riage with French men and also hav­ing the rights to own prop­er­ty in the 1700’s.It seems like as they drew closer to the 1800s that the pres­sure of the “south­ern way of life” immerged into the once ambigu­ous­ly mod­er­ate lib­er­al French Louisana and began… Read more »
kinksnnaps

I already knew this but very inter­est­ing.

One of many rea­sons there is a nat­u­ral hair move­ment for black wom­en. :)

Rae

Yes, I have heard of this law and his­tor­i­cal peri­od. Those Black wom­en took those Tignon and added so much flair and style, they became a fash­ion state­ment. SEE Marie Laveau…

West

Nev­er knew this! Very inter­est­ing. Also inter­est­ing that this arti­cle falls on the heels of the great debate of WW join­ing the nat­u­ral hair move­ment. Many are so adamant that we should be inclu­sive, but this arti­cle is anoth­er point as to why the “strug­gle” is not the same and should not be equat­ed.

Great read!

belle

very well writ­ten and insight­ful!

Nina

Glad to know this. Thanks for the arti­cle!

Chala

No, I haven’t but this turned out to be pret­ty awe­some how this back­fired on the white wom­en that mis­treat­ed black wom­en of that time. If the white men want the black wom­en, they were going for them any­way because they were for­bid­den and had curves that most white wom­en of that time only dreamed of. Lmbo! This was sad in the begin­ning but turned out to be awe­some in the end. #Hap­py­To­Be­ABlack­Fe­male

flouncingtart

“If the white men want the black wom­en, they were going for them any­way because they were for­bid­den and had curves that most white wom­en of that time only dreamed of.” 

Often times at the detri­ment of black and mul­tira­cial wom­en, unfor­tu­nate­ly.

Gold Aura

“Often times at the detri­ment of black and mul­tira­cial wom­en, unfor­tu­nate­ly.” You are so right. Its not like those men had any respect for Black or mul­tira­cial wom­en. Espe­cial­ly dur­ing that time peri­od. Even now, alot of them walk around with this sense of enti­tle­ment and supe­ri­or­i­ty when it comes to oth­er races of wom­en. They are taught from ear­ly child­hood that it is their “birthright” to have any wom­an they want and that they are at the top of every soci­ety.

Yayla

Wow, how telling is that? …It could iron­i­cal­ly be argued today that present media/social beau­ty rules & “laws”, which are Euro­cen­tric and Cau­casian direct­ed, demand that wom­en of colour cov­er their nat­u­ral hair or in some way dis­guise or con­ceal it with the fol­low­ing: Chem­i­cal relax­ers, weaves, bleach,… Basi­cal­ly any­thing which betrays its nat­u­ral state and con­ceals or at least detracts from its Afro­cen­tric appear­ance. Sad­ly, in order to gain social accep­tance and feel “beau­ti­ful” many black wom­en com­ply. The good news is, many of us are wak­ing up to this fact.

mlank64

Yayla…absolutely!!! That’s why when peo­ple say ‘what’s the big deal…it’s just hair” You know they don’t have a com­plete under­stand­ing of their his­to­ry. Knowl­edge is pow­er. When you under­stand your his­to­ry, your unique beau­ty, and the reac­tions to our under­stand­ing of our his­to­ry then it is all that more impor­tant to wear our hair proud­ly in its nat­u­ral state.

Yayla

Thanks Mlank64 :-) I appre­ci­ate your sup­port & am real­ly encour­aged by all the thumbs ups to see there are oth­ers who feel the same way too.

kb

My great-aunt was a maid. My Grand­mom told me she would have to wear hair in a scarf, bc white wom­en, didn’t want their hus­bands, look­ing at her.

Ebony

This doesn’t sur­prise me at all. They have had hate for black wom­en for cen­turies.

Mary

There is a new one recent­ly passed in the army…

mlank64
Lou­sian­na has an inter­est­ing his­to­ry con­cern­ing wom­en of col­or. I took note of this his­to­ry when I was watch­ing an old movie on TCM with Ingrid Bergman..called “Sarato­ga Trunk”. In the movie, Ingrid Bergman returns to Lou­sian­na from Paris to reclaim her sta­tus as a half cre­ole wom­an. In the movie they only inti­mate that she was descend­ed from wom­en of col­or called Placees. See below: “Plaçage was a rec­og­nized extrale­gal sys­tem in French and Span­ish slave colonies of North Amer­i­ca (includ­ing the Caribbean) by which eth­nic Euro­pean men entered into the equiv­a­lent of com­mon-law mar­riages with wom­en of col­or, of… Read more »
Brandi Quezaire

thanks, mlank 64! You just cleared up a lot ques­tions I had about why I couldn’t find a lot about my 4-times great-grand­fa­ther Alphon­se a white Span­ish man and my 4-times great-grand­moth­er Rosel­la a mulat­ta from Louisiana. That’s why I love this site, I learn some­thing new all the time on here.

mlank64
Wow, this arti­cle was so time­ly because I just came across the movie on TCM about a week ago. The movie sparked an inter­est in me because I know so very lit­tle about black wom­en in Lou­sian­na, and cre­ole wom­en in gen­er­al. Creole…aristocracy of span­ish and french peo­ple? Many wom­en typ­i­cal­ly light skinned wom­en or wom­en who can pass for white but had african ances­try often were in this “com­mon law” mar­riages with cre­ole men.  There seems to be a com­mon thread through­out his­to­ry con­cern­ing wom­en of col­or and are desir­abil­i­ty to oth­er races. Laws and social con­structs were estab­lished to… Read more »
Jamz

Very inter­est­ing to know! Had no idea…

wpDiscuz