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Cursed to Crowned: How Head Wraps Defied Tignon Law

Updated: May 14, 2021

Head wraps are been a representation of culture and fashion across the globe. From the Gele of Nigeria to the Ghoongha in India, head wraps carry the weight of history, tradition, and beauty. The same is true for modern head wraps which are steeped in the United States challenging racial past.

During the Spanish Colonial period, Black women adorned their hair with various forms of jewelry. By embracing their beauty and creativity, they had become “too elegant” and attracted the attention of white settlers. Their allure challenged the status quo as they competed freely with white women, and threatened the prevailing social order.

In response, Louisiana Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miro enacted Tignon Laws in 1786 which banned black women from wearing their natural hair in public. The purpose was a way to suppress black women's natural beauty and impress them with a sense of inferiority.

However, these laws quickly backfired when this dress code was turned into a fashion statement. Black women took creative and imaginative methods of wrapping their head coverings. They wore bright colored tignons adorned with jewels and ribbons.

By turning the law upside down without ever breaking it, what was deemed a curse was redefined as a crown.

Tignon Law is one example of how black women transcend the politicization of their hair, autonomy, and sense of self. What are some points of joy and pain from your personal experience in defining your beauty? How can black women continue to redefine femininity and embrace their beauty in a way that impacts society as a whole. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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