Madame C J Walker became a millionaire after inventing the straightening comb. This product enabled black women to relax their kinks by straightening their hair. When I was growing up I knew nothing about Madame Walker. I assumed that using a hot comb on the hair is what African American women had always done.
Before the invention of the pressing comb, black women who wanted their hair straight used heated irons. Today, decades after Madame Walker’s invention, black hair styles are coming full circle. Many black women are saying goodbye to hot combs, flat irons, chemical relaxers and curly perms.
A growing number of us are choosing accept the locks we were born with , and wear our hair in it’s natural state. This is not a re-do of the Afro. Black women are making lifestyle changes to accept and work with what they have been endowed with. And we are saving time and money that once was spent on products, and inside the hair salon.
It is empowering to not be a slave to chemicals, heated appliances and hair rollers. I love being able to break a sweat or walk in the rain, without apprehension. I am enjoying the freedom of not having to spend time and money in the beauty shop.
During black history month Madame C J Walker is hailed as being innovative. She is celebrated as being the first female, self made millionaire in the Untied States. The fact that she made money so quickly tells us of the hunger within black women, to change the looks of their locks. But today many see that hunger as actually self loathing.
What were the real motivations behind altering our hair texture? Was it envy of biracial women whose hair looked more white? Or was it necessary in order to secure a job during a certain period in history? Unfortunately anyone who can tell us is long dead and buried. We are left with our theories.
I have noticed for a while, that some black women over age 50 have been quietly wearing their hair in a natural style. The younger women it seems, desire to turn this into a national revolution . Not long ago in Richmond Va., there was a big gala celebrating natural hair. Women were invited to come and have their hair cut off.
It seems a portion of African American women have come full circle. Once we seemed to loathe our hair, spending over 8 billion dollars each year to tame, curl, straighten and manage it. In addition to wigs, weave, tracks and extensions to make it appear longer. Today we are embracing our natural locks, and turning our backs on all those products we once thought were necessary.
With a growing number of black women re-thinking the necessity of straightening hair, one has to wonder: Is it possible that Madame CJ Walker’s invention may soon become a thing of the past? Will young black women one day ask the question “Madame CJ who?”
Will chemical relaxers go bad sitting unused on store shelves? Will black hair dressers become like the Maytag repairman, sitting idly waiting on customers? Does the future hold day when black women with unruly locks will accept their hair and wear it as is? Only time will tell. Until then we have a myriad of choices regarding hair style and care. And no doubt will continue to explore every one.