Sadly that era of the natural hair movement lasted up to the 70s then fizzled out after the Black Panthers and black consciousness were destroyed.
Racial profiling was a big part of that since if you wore an Afro then you were targeted because it was believed you were a part of the Panther Party.
An Afro could get you shot or thrown into jail, so women and men out of fear went back to the straightening combs. Since then the Afro has been deemed to be associated with anarchy.
Before the modern day natural hair movement, some black women were always prim and proper with relaxed hair since the early age of 7 (sometimes earlier). Our mothers would not allow us to “break the rules” or let us leave the house without our hair “intact.”
Other than relaxers, there were products promising to “tame uncontrollable hair,” “kinks gone in a blink,” and “fix that frizzy hair quick.” We would use flat irons, hot combs, oily serums, and straightening creams to condemn every coily kink we had, ensuring that our hair did not result in that embarrassing “nappy mess.”
Self-image and self-worth were affected from seeing other girls at school with long and flowing straight hair. We would see magazines and TV shows with women and girls with the straight hair we longed for.
So if we could not grow it, then we purchased wigs and weaves searching for ways to make those products seem like our natural hair. We wanted to be accepted at school, in our family, and out in public. Beauty by the European standard became more important over the health of our coily and kinky hair.
Then 2008 came. Black women became frustrated and tired of relaxers and other chemicals destroying what little hair we had.
Going to the salon became too expensive. We started realizing we had signed away the health of our bodies and well-being for our “beauty parlor styles,” and we just got tired of the elevated health risks. Something had to change. We all knew it but we were still unsure about what exactly to do.
We had two options, stop relaxing and transition or big chop. But those decisions did not exist in a vacuum. We cannot downplay the role the rise of social media had with this phenomenon.
YouTube and blogs became a new and effective tool that not only reached black women trying to learn to care for their hair in a healthy way but brought us together for support as well. This became a platform for the newbie naturalistas to learn and to help others.
As more and more women learned tips to have healthy and long natural hair with successful results, more women stopped getting relaxers and other chemicals to straighten their hair. That’s when the snowball effect happened.
Since then the natural hair movement has come a long way. According to Danielle Douglas of Washington Post, from 2009-2011 the sales of chemical relaxers decreased 12.4%. In 2011, YouTube sensations flourished from newbie naturalistas to full-grown veterans with mid-back to waist length hair!