Did You Know? Tignon Law

During the Spanish colonial period, women of African heritage used to wear their hair in mind-blowing hairstyles. They will incorporate accessories such as jewels and feathers to style their hair. In today’s term, this is what we would call avant-garde, you know the type of hair that would make people turn their head. When I say people that included men…white men too.

Therefore, Governor Don Estevan Miro of New Orleans in 1786 enacted the “Tignon law”. The tignon is a kerchief, headwrap or scarf. The law banned Creole women of colour from showing ‘excessive attention to dress’ in New Orleans. Women had to cover their hair with a tignon which indicated they were slaves, whether they were enslaved or not (Imagine!). Miro’s idea was to control women of African descent from competing with white women for status and thus threatening the social order. These same women used the tignon to cover their hair but used jewels and feathers to make the tignon more fashionable. They still respected the law whilst making the garment their own.

Centuries later, we’re still being forbidden to wear what is growing and flourishing on our own head. There is progress but we must continue to promote natural hair.

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