That’s a clean cut! : The history of black barbershops in America, Black History 365

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Barbershops are not only places to get a clean cut and look sharp, but it’s also a place where you can relax, talk and feel a part of a community. It’s a workplace but has the feeling of a lounge and throughout the nation, it’s a vital part of black communities. I have been cutting my hair for the last five years (A good job I’ll add) and haven’t been in a barbershop since 2016 but that doesn’t negate my experience from childhood and up until that point (2016) on how instrumental barber shops especially black-owned ones did to my growth in terms of socialization and culture. With that said, in this post, I’ll be explaining the history of African American barbering.

Black Barber Shops

The Importance Of Barbershops

As mentioned, Barbershops play a pivotal role in the cultural and economical development of African American communities. Barber Shops displayed social and cultural appreciation to both its visitors and owners. Additionally, from my experience, even though the majority of patrons were African Americans, that doesn’t exclude other races entering that environment and being welcomed. Furthermore, not only will you be able to get great haircuts but you will build rapport with your barber and patrons. Newfound connections will result in repeat visits and that’s why I believe barbershops have been imperative in black communities in terms of strengthening the black male identity.

The power and politics of the black barbershop | The FADER

Cutting the way to freedom

It was during slavery in the 19th century when black barbers were introduced to America. Since they were the property of their masters, the masters would find new ways to profit from their slaves and in this case did with barbering. They would lease black male slaves to their neighbors and local establishments to groom prominent white men. Furthermore, even though black-owned barbershops were run by slaves or ex-slaves, it wasn’t easy for a black man to visit a black barber and get a haircut not only in the south but also in the north! The reason being, those black barbershops were a competition for white-owned barbershops, and their ( and I mean the black barbers) patrons were primarily white men. Economic reasons hindered the barber’s financial stability but black barbers preferred indoor conditions compared to the brutal conditions they faced in the fields. Their futures as barbers would improve once they were freed under Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (1863), and once they began working as free men, they opened their shops in black communities for black communities. Shortly after, the barber industry began to stagnate a bit and many began to close down, all due to state laws requiring formal training for barbers to be licensed. From then on, barbers owning shops were to be licensed with no exceptions.

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In 1934 Henry M. Morgan established Tyler Barber College, a school for aspiring African American barbers. Around 80 percent of barbers were schooled here. The conception of this college initiated a shift in attitude between white men and black barbers.

Wealth and opportunities

At the beginning of the 20th century, black men began experiencing wealth from barbering. One of the first African American millionaires, Alonzo Herndon, began his empire in 1878 with his first barbershop. Before his legacy ended he owned more than 100 rental places which subsequently caused him to become the wealthiest black man in Atlanta. Furthermore, he expanded his ventures to the YMCA and the National Negro Business League which played a vital role in the growth of Black America.

Willie Lee Morrows, another pivotal figure in the history of black barbering, started his career in the ’60s and never looked back. He started his barbering journey when he was hired by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to train thousands of army barbers in Vietnam and other Asian countries during the war. Currently, Morrows is a multimillionaire and is known as a pioneer in the black hair care industry.

Believe it or not but African American barbershops were places where black liberation activists gathered and brought their call to action mentality to bring awareness about civil rights to patrons. Not to mention, the impact had on the Hip Hop scene beginning in the ’80s.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania Willie Lee Morrow barber


 The importance of barbershops to American history is vital. Other than it being a place to get one’s hair cut, it’s a place where communities can connect, and in this case black communities that found a haven in barbershops. Discussions of social and societal reform took place there, and it was a catalyst for individuals to find not only confidence in themselves but in their communities. Today, barbers and barbershops are instrumental in being a staple in many communities’ development.

Why the culture of black barbershops is so important

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