Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women's Consciousness

Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women's Consciousness

Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women's Consciousness

Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women's Consciousness


The first general history in English of Morocco in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,Morocco since 1830: A Historyexplores the profound changes that have affected social relations in Morocco over the last 150 years, especially those between the sexes, and between linguistic identities and cultures.

Although the country has returned to roughly its pre-colonial boundaries, Morocco still suffers from the effects of colonization by France and Spain. Its current king, like the sultans of the nineteenth century, claims legitimacy through his leadership of the Islamic community, but there is a long tradition of dissent based on Islamic ideals. Morocco's history is also marked by the enduring presence of a large Jewish community.

This comprehensive portrait examines the tactics used by Moroccan rulers to cope with European penetration in the nineteenth century and colonialism in the twentieth, and, since the 1950s, to retain control of the independent state. As Pennell points out, however, the ruling dynasty is not sufficiently representative of modern Morocco, nor are political events the only influence on change. Most Moroccans are still poor, and their lives are shaped by their economic circumstances. The influence of harvests, access to land and water, and external trade have always determined the fate of the majority.


In late November 1998, Ruth Sherman, a white teacher at predominantly black and Hispanic Public School (P.S.) 75 in Brooklyn, found herself embroiled in a national controversy after using Carolivia Herron’s children’s book Nappy Hair (1997) in her thirdgrade class. The story’s main character, Brenda, has long and “kinky” or “nappy” hair. Blacks use these words to describe black hair that is tightly coiled or curled in texture. But “nappy” is historically a derogatory term. Although many blacks embraced nappy, or natural, hair in the late 1960s and early 1970s, some still perceived the term, and the hair, negatively.

Nappy hair could not escape its history. Although natural hairstyles made a comeback in the 1990s, some black Brooklyn residents living near P.S. 75 felt the book was inappropriate because of the reference to nappy hair. According to newspaper reports, a black parent, Cathy Wright, found photocopied pages of the story in one of her daughter’s school folders. Soon several other adults, most of whom were not parents of children at P.S. 75, were complaining about the use of the story. Once the story made national news, Herron, an assistant professor of English at California State University at Chico, made it clear that her story was indeed a celebration of nappy or kinky hair. She was targeting the very kids that attend P.S. 75 as her audience. However, instead of viewing Herron’s work in the spirit that it was written, the protesters viewed Ms. Sherman’s use of the story as offensive and derogatory. According to the New York Times, even after hearing Herron’s motive in writing Nappy Hair, Ms. Wright explained . . .

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