By Tamara Hazzard
Tiffany Gill, Associate Professor in the Department of Africana Studies and History at the University of Delaware, and author of Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women’s Activism in the Beauty Industry, discussed the essence of the Beauty Shop in African American History at a presentation, yesterday, to a group of faculty and students at DSU.
Dr. Gill told of how African American Women were creative and unconventional in the protection and preservation of Black Life. The presentation entitled, “A Strange Place for A Revolution: Lessons from Black Beauticians, began with the story of Anne Moody, an activist involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1963, Ms. Moore participated in a sit-in at a Woolworth Lunch Counter in Jackson, Mississippi. This demonstration caused Anne Moody to be on the receiving end of verbal insults and being doused with food and drinks. After the horrible ordeal, Anne Moore found refuge and community support in a local beauty shop. Dr. Gill expressed how Anne Moore had her dignity restored by the kind service she received.
Dr. Gill explained how Business Beauty Pioneers, such as Annie Malone and Madame C. J. Walker, created several style techniques and hair products for African American Women. Ms. Malone and Ms. Walker used their businesses to open up an avenue to create better economic opportunities for black women. Annie Malone and Madame C. J. Walker created a way for African American Women to be able to make a living by opening up beauty schools. Black women were no longer restricted to being employed as domestic workers.
In the 1950’s – 1960, black beauticians used their position to educate, inform and empower their patrons. Bernice Robinson, a beautician, used her establishment to educate and prepare customers to take the test needed to receive voting rights. She also used her shop to strategize meetings for the National Association for the Advancement of Color People (NAACP).
Dr. Tiffany Gill expressed that her goal is for the hearers to gain the motivation to become unconventional, creative and innovative, when dealing with and confronting the issues that we face today. The information presented by Dr. Gill brought an awareness of the risks those before endured and the realization that there is still much work to be done. It is important for all of us to become elements of change, to inspire, uplift and educate.