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Is Black hair sacred?

Is Black hair sacred?

Black hair has held deep cultural and spiritual significance in African and African diaspora communities for centuries. The relationship between Black people and their natural hair extends beyond aesthetics into principles of identity, heritage and divine purpose. This raises an important question: is Black hair considered sacred?

The historical roots of Black hair’s meaning

In many traditional African cultures, hair was seen as the physical manifestation of one’s soul and spirit. Intricately styled and decorated hairstyles conveyed social status, age, wealth, marital status and religious affiliation. During pivotal rites of passage like birth, marriage and death, hair rituals affirmed the spiritual transformation taking place.

Enslaved Africans in the Americas were often shorn of their hair as a means of dehumanization and control. But hair continued holding deep meaning as a tie to their homeland and humanity. Elaborate cornrow styles allowed secret communication.

After Emancipation, the first Black hair care businesses emerged to help Black people reclaim their natural hair. The Black Power Movement of the 1960s/’70s repopularized Afros, braids and other natural hairstyles as symbols of racial pride and rejection of Eurocentric beauty standards.

This history shows how Black hair has long represented cultural identity and spiritual resistance against oppression for the African diaspora.

The divine significance of Black hair

In many indigenous African religions, hair is considered a gift from the Creator, imbued with one’s destiny and purpose. Hairstyles reflect hierarchy, life stage and group identity. Ritual haircare connects the divine with the physical world.

Spiritually significant Black haircare practices include:

Sankofa symbol shaved into hair Adinkra symbol meaning “go back and get it” – retrieving knowledge of the past
Hair washing rituals Washing hair spiritually cleanses away negative energy
Libation pouring on hair Offering blessings and honouring ancestors
Hair braiding circles Bringing Black women together in sisterhood

Hairstyles like dreadlocks and afros allow hair to grow into its natural state, defying European standards of straight, loose hair as “professional” or “tidy”. This carries spiritual and political meaning.

Black hair discrimination in Western society

Eurocentric privilege and anti-Black prejudice have led to decades of Black people facing discrimination for wearing natural hairstyles. Black hair has been called “unprofessional”, “distracting”, “radical” and “unkempt” in workplace dress codes and school policies.

Recent examples of hair discrimination include:

2020 Texas high school forces Black student to cut locs to walk at graduation
2019 New Jersey teen wrestler forced to cut locs or forfeit match
2018 11-year-old sent home from Catholic school for extensions

Bans on natural Black hairstyles reinforce the racist notion that whiteness is “professional” and Black features are unacceptable. This creates tangible harm, for example lowering job prospects for Black employees who feel pressured to dangerously chemically straighten their hair to fit in.

The Crown Act and protecting hair discrimination

In recent years, racial justice advocates have pushed back against hair discrimination through legislation like The CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair).

The CROWN Act prohibits hair discrimination in schools and workplaces. By August 2022, the act has been signed into law in 19 U.S. states including California, New York and New Jersey, as well as dozens of counties and cities.

Major corporations like Nike, Target and Uber have also updated policies to prevent hair discrimination against employees or customers.

The success of The CROWN Act affirms that natural Black hairstyles hold cultural and spiritual value for the Black community and must be protected.

Black hair as an act of divine resistance

Choosing to wear Black natural hairstyles counteracts centuries of attempts to erase the divine origins of Black hair.

Living in a society with systematic racism, violence against Black people and legacies of injustice makes the choice to honor natural Black beauty a courageous act of resistance.

Writer and activist Audre Lorde expressed this powerful sense of divine destiny linked to Black hair and identity:

“Our hair seems to terrify non-blacks in its natural state, as if it were medieval serpents on Medusa’s head turning them to stone. It is truly our glory and crown, which they shun seeing, as if our hair could steal their souls and contaminate them with Africa’s mystery and magic.”

For Lorde and so many other Black women, natural hair carries the mystery and magic of their African ancestors, with the power to reclaim identity and demand social change.


From African rituals to civil rights marches to contemporary culture, Black hair has held deep sacred symbolism and meaning for generations. Natural Black hairstyles connect wearers to their roots, community and divinely inspired power in an unjust world. Therefore Black hair can certainly be considered sacred, as an expression of both cultural heritage and spiritual resistance.