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The Tignon Laws

Let's talk about Tignon Laws:

As a man of creole descent, I look forward to the day when wearing my hair as it grows from my head is not a form of protest.

Black women, as in all things, have endured the brunt of the struggle of having pride in natural hair.

During the 18th century, the tignon (a headwrap or handkerchief) emerged as a symbol of pride for free women of color in New Orleans. In 1769 the law of coartación allowed enslaved people in Louisiana to purchase their own freedom. This afforded them the opportunity to build wealth and status in their communities. Toward the end of the Spanish colonial period (1763 through 1802), nearly 1,500 enslaved people in New Orleans “had acquired their freedom by cash payments,” according to Know Louisiana. By 1810 free people of color made up 44% of the city’s population.

The newspapers published countless articles about the self-expression and hair of free Black women. These articles stated that the Black womens hair was distracting and vulgar, and the women were too proud, beautiful, and promiscuous. Often called 'haughty' which means arrogantly superior and disdainful. In truth, most of these women sought to live respectable lives. These allegations were a false narrative based on fear because white/Spanish male settlers were creating relationships with free women. White women were afraid of losing their husbands, potentially and legally, and both sexes we're afraid of the mixing of races.

Despite the lies, in 1786 Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miró passed sumptuary Tignon Laws that mandated Black women to conceal their hair with a headwrap. "The laws were not necessarily about keeping Black women from having sexual relationships with white men, but about preventing free women of color from being able to publicly enjoy those relationships or displaying any material gain that they might have gotten from those relationships", says Lisa Ze Winters, author of the 2016 book The Mulatta Concubine: Terror, Intimacy, Freedom, and Desire in the Black Transatlantic.

The tignon laws were intended “to return the free women of color, visibly and symbolically, to the subordinate and inferior status associated with slavery,” says historian Virginia M. Gould in 1997’s The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South. In 1773, free women of color in Saint-Domingue were prohibited from wearing shoes. They responded by creating sandals and adorning their toes with diamonds. Even after the laws were lifted they continued this with pride.

Thank God for the creative minds of Black women. Instead of wearing drab headscarves that would mute their beauty, Black women enacted their autonomy by purchasing bright and colorful headwraps. They would tie them extravagantly. Adorn them with jewels and ribbons. What was meant to be a sign of servitude became an expression of art and power. A form of resistance.

Today we see these same ideologies carried out in the workplace. In the year 2019, California becomes the FIRST STATE TO BAN DISCRIMINATION ON NATURAL HAIR...

Can we just pause for a moment and take that in? 2019. The FIRST state.

Also, the fact that when we mention the word "natural" it can be assumed we are talking about black people.

The military only recently allowed natural hair. Black children are STILL suspended from school for natural hairstyles.

What comes to mind is the video of the black high school wrestler being forced to have a white woman cut his dreads because the referee threatened to disqualify him.

How Google categorizes "professional hairstyles" as white, and "unprofessional hairstyles" as Black.

When Zendaya wore faux-dreads on the red carpet looking like a MF goddess, she was described as looking like she smelled of "patchouli and weed".

How most theaters do not hire black wigmakers to teach their costumers how to create black hair, so we walk onstage with a helmet rather than a hairdo.

The horror stories I've heard from black people about white people touching their hair without permission. "Is it real?" "Is it yours, or did you pay for it?" "It's so nappy." "How is it not racist when you straighten your hair to look like white people?" "You look like Buckwheat?"

How black women used poisonous chemicals to perm their hair, or use appliances to burn their hair, just so they MIGHT have one less form of discrimination to worry about when they leave their homes.

These Tignon Laws made hair discrimination legal. These actions made jealousy legal. These ideals are still present today.

Why, in the year 2020, is being exactly who I am a form of resistance? Why is a Black person getting out of bed a form of resistance?

#BlackLivesMatter #BlackHairMatters #MyHairIsNotAWeapon





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