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Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women's Activism in the Beauty Industry (Women in American History) Paperback

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Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women's Activism in the Beauty Industry (Women in American History) + The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America, Revised Edition
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Product Details

  • Series: Women in American History
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (March 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252076966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252076961
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews



"Gill has made a major contribution to our understanding that the beauty industry has been central to African American women's search for economic sufficiency and the struggle for all African Americans' political rights."--American Studies 
"A welcome relocation of the discussion of black women's beauty culture."--Women's Review of Books


"Gill's book is important. . . . Beauty Shop Politics ... allows a glimpse into black women's relationships with each other, relationships that are simultaneously professional and intimate, in which black women are both producers and consumers, as well as active creators, on both sides, of spaces that are uniquely their own."--The Journal of Southern History
"A meticulously researched, well-written, and cogently argued book that contributes to scholarship that complicates historiographical boundaries between business history, labor history, history of consumer culture, women's history, and the history of African American political activism."--The Journal of American History



"[Gill] impressively demonstrates how beauticians became an important part of the black economic urban infrastructure. . . .  Highly recommended. "--Choice

About the Author

Tiffany M. Gill is an assistant professor of history, African American studies, and women's studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Feminist Texican Reads on July 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
In Beauty Shop Politics, Tiffany M. Gill documents the central role that black beauticians played in the struggle against Jim Crow laws. Beauty shops were one of the few industries that offered black women some economic stability and upward mobility in the face of segregation. The industry also offered black women a respectable alternative to domestic labor, as well as a change to not work for white people. As political tensions rose, civil rights organizers increasingly turned to black beauticians for disseminating social and political information.

Initially, the hair care industry was dominated by white English and French men. Black men slowly worked their way into the industry, serving as hairdressers for white women, but that period was short-lived, as the stereotype of black men as sexual predators began to emerge. During the antebellum period, black women began to emerge as hairdressers in greater numbers; the early twentieth century saw the emergence of black female entrepreneurs, namely Annie Malone and Madame C.J. Walker, who played an integral role in expanding black beauty culture.

Through hard work and sheer perseverance, the women fought for beauticians to gain the respect of the general public. The women had to fight charges that they were inhibiting racial uplift, particularly because their products appeared to straighten black women's hair at a time when it was culturally looked down upon. Still, the women fought to have beautician courses established at black colleges, arguing that the industry provided black women economic stability. They also fiercely promoted themselves to the public by contributing to various philanthropic causes.
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