Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul

Article excerpt

Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul. By Tanisha C. Ford. Gender and American Culture. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015. Pp. xvi, 256. $29.95, ISBN 978-1-4696 2515-7.)

Tanisha C. Ford presents a creative and thoroughly researched piece of scholarship. She deftly moves across the African diaspora to historicize soul-style fashion popular from the late 1950s into the 1970s. Testimonies of individual women from South Africa, London's Brixton neighborhood, and her own mother's story of growing up black and female in Indiana form the heart of the narrative. African American soul music and the black press provide an additional layer of sources, as well as an explanation for how soul style moved around the Atlantic. Ford places black women at the center of both defining and popularizing not only soul style but also the transatlantic civil rights struggles of the mid-twentieth century.

Readers of this journal will be most interested in chapter 3 about soul style in the 1960s U.S. South. By the time readers arrive in the South, Ford has already taken them through the early roots of soul style in the Greenwich Village and Harlem neighborhoods of New York City. These two earlier chapters focus on the connections between fashion and music in defining a soul style that combined African American ideas of authentic African dress, textiles, and hairstyles that were not always accurate. Women members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) expressed a different kind of soul style that arose from working in the rural South. SNCC women adopted the clothing of the rural working class as a practical response to their inability to perform civil rights work while dealing with constant hair upkeep and care of expensive fabrics. …

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