Hair wasn’t a big deal for me personally until it started receding. Then, I debated joining the throngs of my guy friends who had shaved the noggin and sported the Mr. Clean look. And yet, outside of the trench warfare I’m having with my hairline, I recognize that my relationship with hair is drastically different than other people, both culturally, racially, and genderly.
In the last several years, multiple stories have made national news headlines about Black Americans being discriminated against because of their hair. I specifically recall the story of a black teenager that was forced to cut his hair before a wrestling match, or he would have to forfeit.
I quickly added to my lexicon “Hair Discrimination.” I wanted to know more about why this mattered so much when this event occurred. I didn’t expect to discover that during the transatlantic slave trade, slave traders would shave the heads of Africans when they were captured as a punitive measure of taking away their identity and purging them of their culture.
Hair in the colonies became a source of empowerment to cultivate identity and expression. In the 1950s and 60’s civil rights movement, hair was a symbol of activism and self-expression.
New Testament scholar Esau McCaulley has written a new book about Black Americans’ relationship with hair. More specifically, McCaulley has written a children’s book, “Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit.”
We sat down with McCaulley to discuss the implications of this book while also catching up with him about his work, “Reading While Black.”
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Andy Hale is the creator and host of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Podcast. Hale is the Associate Executive Coordinator of CBF North Carolina. He’s also served as CBF’s Church Start Specialist, the founding pastor of Mosaic Church of Clayton, and the senior pastor of University Baptist Church of Baton Rouge. Follow on Twitter @haleandy.