by Cassandre of cassandrebeccai.com
Woman in Tignon credit
“Did you know that in late 18th century Louisiana, black and
multiracial women were ordered to cover their hair in public?” My sister
“WOW. Really?” I replied.
I had to admit, I probably have heard of this in one of my black
studies classes in undergrad, but who remembers everything you’ve been
taught anyway? Besides, this information all of the sudden seemed so
much more relevant and I was absolutely intrigued.
It wasn’t unusual for me to feel myself gaining brain cells while in
conversation with my sisters, but by the time I caught my racing
thoughts so I could ask her some questions, it was time to take care of
my baby girl. I knew, however that this was a topic worth visiting
With a little digging I found that there was in fact a “law” of sorts
that demanded women of color in Louisiana to cover their hair with a
fabric cloth starting in 1789 as a part of what was called the Bando du
buen gobierno (Edict for Good Government). What these rules were meant
to do was try to curtail the growing influence of the free black
population and keep the social order of the time. The edict included
sections specifically about the changing of certain “unacceptable”
behaviors of the free black women in the colony including putting an end
to what he and others believed to be the overly ostentatious hairstyles
of these ladies which drew the attention of white men, and the jealousy
of white women. These rules are called the “Tignon Laws” A tignon
(pronounced “tiyon”) is a headdress.
Apparently, women of color were wearing their hair in such fabulous
ways, adding jewels and feathers to their high hairdos and walking
around with such beauty and pride that it was obscuring their status.
This was very threatening to the social stability (read: white
population) of the area at the time. The law was meant to distinguish
women of color from their white counterparts and to minimize their
Black and multi racial women began to adopt the tignon, but not
without a little ingenuity. Many tied the tignon in elaborate ways and
used beautiful fabrics and other additions to the headdress to make them
appealing. In the end, what was meant to draw less attention to them
made these ladies even more beautiful and alluring.
This bit of history only makes me feel even more proud about wearing my natural hair out or in pretty head wraps.
My take away: We should realize and
embrace the inherit beauty of our blackness and all that makes us
unique, especially our hair. Even history teaches us it’s all so notably