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Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women's Activism in the Beauty Industry

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Looking through the lens of black business history, Beauty Shop Politics shows how black beauticians in the Jim Crow era parlayed their economic independence and access to a public community space into platforms for activism. Tiffany M. Gill argues that the beauty industry played a crucial role in the creation of the modern black female identity and that the seemingly friv Looking through the lens of black business history, Beauty Shop Politics shows how black beauticians in the Jim Crow era parlayed their economic independence and access to a public community space into platforms for activism. Tiffany M. Gill argues that the beauty industry played a crucial role in the creation of the modern black female identity and that the seemingly frivolous space of a beauty salon actually has stimulated social, political, and economic change. From the founding of the National Negro Business League in 1900 and onward, African Americans have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit by starting their own businesses, but black women's forays into the business world were overshadowed by those of black men. With a broad scope that encompasses the role of gossip in salons, ethnic beauty products, and the social meanings of African American hair textures, Gill shows how African American beauty entrepreneurs built and sustained a vibrant culture of activism in beauty salons and schools. Enhanced by lucid portrayals of black beauticians and drawing on archival research and oral histories, Beauty Shop Politics conveys the everyday operations and rich culture of black beauty salons as well as their role in building community.


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Looking through the lens of black business history, Beauty Shop Politics shows how black beauticians in the Jim Crow era parlayed their economic independence and access to a public community space into platforms for activism. Tiffany M. Gill argues that the beauty industry played a crucial role in the creation of the modern black female identity and that the seemingly friv Looking through the lens of black business history, Beauty Shop Politics shows how black beauticians in the Jim Crow era parlayed their economic independence and access to a public community space into platforms for activism. Tiffany M. Gill argues that the beauty industry played a crucial role in the creation of the modern black female identity and that the seemingly frivolous space of a beauty salon actually has stimulated social, political, and economic change. From the founding of the National Negro Business League in 1900 and onward, African Americans have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit by starting their own businesses, but black women's forays into the business world were overshadowed by those of black men. With a broad scope that encompasses the role of gossip in salons, ethnic beauty products, and the social meanings of African American hair textures, Gill shows how African American beauty entrepreneurs built and sustained a vibrant culture of activism in beauty salons and schools. Enhanced by lucid portrayals of black beauticians and drawing on archival research and oral histories, Beauty Shop Politics conveys the everyday operations and rich culture of black beauty salons as well as their role in building community.

30 review for Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women's Activism in the Beauty Industry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alok Vaid-Menon

    Whenever people dismiss beauty as frivolous I recommend this book. Gill traces the history of Black women beauty entrepreneurs, "beauticians" who were among the most politically active in civil rights organizing because they were among "the most economically autonomous members of the black community in the twentieth century." Unlike many of their community members during Jim Crowe segregation, they had access to physical space and created community centers out of salons and beauty schools for Bl Whenever people dismiss beauty as frivolous I recommend this book. Gill traces the history of Black women beauty entrepreneurs, "beauticians" who were among the most politically active in civil rights organizing because they were among "the most economically autonomous members of the black community in the twentieth century." Unlike many of their community members during Jim Crowe segregation, they had access to physical space and created community centers out of salons and beauty schools for Black women to acclimate to urban life and build solidarity. Gill highlights the business strategies of women like Madam C.J. Walker like placing beauty courses at historically Black colleges and generating support from Black beauty publications with transnational readership in Africa and across the diaspora. This is a powerful read for anyone interested in politicized aesthetics.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    Gill offers a well-researched, thorough, and cohesively-presented look at the intersection of beauty culture and political organization in black communities over the last 100 or so years. It's a slightly more ~academic~ book than, for example, Hope in a Jar (which is a special blend of complex + friendly to a general audience), and it adds a lot of nuance to the received view(s) about black Americans' relationship to money, power, and beauty culture. Being a philosopher, I of course, wanted more Gill offers a well-researched, thorough, and cohesively-presented look at the intersection of beauty culture and political organization in black communities over the last 100 or so years. It's a slightly more ~academic~ book than, for example, Hope in a Jar (which is a special blend of complex + friendly to a general audience), and it adds a lot of nuance to the received view(s) about black Americans' relationship to money, power, and beauty culture. Being a philosopher, I of course, wanted more abstraction around the edges - but really Gill's giving a highly sourced account of a specific slice of history and an elegant explanation of its significance, and I was, after all, reading it for its empirical bona fides since abstraction is my job much more than an historian's. "You mean you wanted her to do your work for you?" No! "Maybe part of your work?" Well, sure, who wants to write? Writing is terrible. (But not that hard.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    The concept sounded interesting, but when the only place I could locate a copy was through a college library, I knew I was in trouble. Sure enough, it read like a boring college textbook. I suffered through 60% of it and just could not go on.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Ann

    Immensely interesting! I didn’t know at all that African American beauticians were a really important part of organizing the Civil Rights movement.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shinynickel

    Off this review: Dr. Tiffany Gill earned her Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 2003. Her recently published €œBeauty Shop Politics: African American Women's Activism in the Beauty Industry (University of Illinois, 2010) explores African American beauticians and beauty salons and their role in twentieth-century social, political, and economic movements and is an analysis of the ways African American beauty entrepreneurs built and sustained a vibrant culture of activism and institution building. Off this review: Dr. Tiffany Gill earned her Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 2003. Her recently published €œBeauty Shop Politics: African American Women's Activism in the Beauty Industry (University of Illinois, 2010) explores African American beauticians and beauty salons and their role in twentieth-century social, political, and economic movements and is an analysis of the ways African American beauty entrepreneurs built and sustained a vibrant culture of activism and institution building.

  6. 5 out of 5

    kristy wolfe

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aiden

  8. 5 out of 5

    Grace

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pat

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dana

  11. 4 out of 5

    C.A. Young

  12. 4 out of 5

    Diane

  13. 5 out of 5

    Priscilla

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gwenjamin Button

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amethyst

  17. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jim Drewery

  19. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kashiff Thompson

  21. 5 out of 5

    Iejones

  22. 4 out of 5

    Romulo Diaz

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Tanko Harmeyer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mallory

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anna (Cask & Quill)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brigette Cascio

  27. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lark

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christina Simmons

  30. 4 out of 5

    Natasha

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