WHERE DOES NAPPY HAIR COME FROM
Although textured Hair goes on many names, such as curly, kinky, or coil, nappy Hair is specifically used when speaking about the Hair of Black people. The word has historically been a racist term.
The word nappy is evidenced since, at the very least, the 1880s, an adjective type of nap, a term for the raised fibers on a fabric. Then, Nappy may have originated in derogatory mention of the curly texture of cotton picked and prepared by enslaved people.
Throughout the 20th century, many Black Americans embraced African aesthetics, including ab muscles natural hair many white people previously disparaged as nappy. By the 1990s, nappy Hair was increasingly used in popular Black media—and reclamation, especially by Black women. Aliona L. Gibson published a memoir, Nappy: Growing Up Black and Female in America, in 1995, and Carolinian Herron published a kids’ book, Nappy Hair, in 1997.
Even as the natural hair movement was underway among Black ladies in the 2000s, nappy Hair still carried a strong racist and misogynist force, especially in the mouth of a non-Black woman. In 2007, radio personality Don Imus caused outrage when he called the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hoes.” His remarks led to the cancellation of his show.
In November 2020, Noah Cyrus (sister of Mile Cyrus) used the term about Candace Owens on Instagram. Owens had commented on a recently available Harry Styles ‘Vogue cover shoot in which he wore a dress. Cyrus has taken care of immediately Owens’ critiques by posting on her behalf on Instagram: “he wears this dress much better than some of u nappy ass aux.” Later, on December 3, 2020, Cyrus apologized on her behalf on Instagram, writing: “I’m mortified that I used a term without knowing the context and history, but I understand now, and I’m horrified and truly sorry.”
Despite such instances, Black women continue steadily to reclaim the word. Many natural hair blogs and You Tubers incorporate nappy within their social-media handles and otherwise use the word in a secure means for their very own Hair.
On-Call and Response
Nappy Hair is written entirely in African American call and response. I read this story aloud when I talk to educators because many people go through the text and don’t realize what’s going on. As you go through the pages, you’ll note a line in standard type followed by way of a line in numerous styles. The storyteller speaks the conventional type, and this is the call. The indented lines for multiple kinds are there to give the impression of people answering back, and that’s the response.
This story from my student may be the story of every child–it is just a story of self-esteem: Certainly, one of my students read Nappy Hair to her 4-year-old, white, blond, blue-eyed niece, and her niece said, “That little girl can be like me!” “How so?” asked her aunt. “That little girl has Nappy Hair which will never be straight, and I have straight Hair which will never be curly–and mommy keeps telling me that she loves my Hair and God loves my Hair. We’re just alike.
Indeed, Violet’s story, particularly her big chop, is an experience many black ladies in the West have had. Since the turn of the decade, we’ve seen more black people embracing and celebrating their natural Hair. The #team natural hash tag on Instagram has over five million posts featuring women with curls and kinks, styling them, washing them, braiding them, wrapping them up in beautiful wax-printed turbans. YouTube has a military of natural hair influencers whose hair-care tips and styling tutorials are available with just a couple of clicks and keystrokes. On Facebook, women discuss everything natural Hair in dedicated groups. To express why these developments are lovely could be an understatement.