Another part of American history that’s left out of the classroom and the history books. But yes indeed, there was a time, when head ties were once enforced by law for black women. It was known as Tignon Law (pronounced tiyon), and it was enacted by Esteban Rodriguez Miró in 1786. He was the Governor of Louisiana at the time. Tignon Law was a way to control the appearance of black women, simple as that.
Tignon means head tie. The law was created because white women felt threatened by the beauty of black women. You see, European men were attracted to the beauty of black women. They were attracted to the beauty of their natural hair and the elaborate hair styles they would wear. Sister’s were adorning their hair with beads, jewelry, feathers you name it. The European men were infatuated! And… they often had open affairs with these European men. White women did not like this at all. They felt that their place in society was completely threatened. If the slave or free black woman was of mixed race, people had a difficult time distinguishing if the woman was indeed black or a slave at all. This infuriated white women!
So to keep black women in their place, Tignon Law was created. “Edict of Good Government,” was passed, which required black women to wear “their hair bound in a kerchief” or a tignon. This applied to all black women slaves and free. White women wanted black women to appear homely and less attractive. Tignon Law also forbid them from wearing any jewelry and plumes as the European women did.
For slaves, the head ties were used for more than making them appear less sexual and attractive to the master. They were also used to protect their hair from the sun, lice, and dirt. The head ties were not effective at all with keeping the master’s from raping the slave women. The wives of the master’s would become so infuriated they would shave the slave women’s hair completely.
During this time head ties were a way of showing inferiority. A way to control black women. Unlike today, head ties were viewed as anything but beautiful. “The African American Woman’s Headwrap: Unwinding the Symbols”. By: Helen Bradley Griebel is an excellent read on the history of the head tie. Click here to read it. http://char.txa.cornell.edu/griebel.htm
I’ll continue to write about the history of the head tie. The road to their pride and glory of today has had its hurdles. I think it’s important for black women to know the history of what has become such a staple in our culture. I want young black girls to wear their head wraps and head ties proudly. I want black women of all ages to embrace and respect what our ancestors endured, so that we can continue to wear these “Crowns” of glory with our heads held high….