Black History Month Spotlight: Pioneers in Black Hair Care

Black History Month Spotlight: Pioneers in Black Hair Care

As Black History Month unfolds, it's the perfect time to reflect on the rich tapestry of Black history and spotlight remarkable individuals whose contributions have left a lasting mark on the world. This month at HBCU Leggings, we’re emphasizing the importance of supporting Black business.  In this blog post, we embark on a journey through the history of Black hair care, unearthing narratives of resilience, innovation, cultural transformation, and the impact on the hair care industry today. Our focus is on the pioneering efforts of Madame C.J. Walker, America’s first self made millionaire,  whose legacy continues to shape the beauty industry.  We also explore the contemporary brands, Pattern Beauty by Tracee Ellis Ross and TPH by Taraji P. Henson (a Howard University Alumna), who carry the torch of empowerment and representation. Together, they have redefined not just beauty standards but also the very essence of empowerment within the Black community.

The Origins of Madame C.J. Walker - A Tale of Resilience and Vision

Our journey through the history of Black hair care transports us to the late 19th century, a time when the beauty industry paid scant attention to the unique needs of Black hair. It was an era marked by a lack of products and treatments tailored to the diverse and textured nature of African American hair. Against this backdrop, one extraordinary individual emerged to shatter these limitations and redefine the world of beauty.

Born in 1867 as Sarah Breedlove, Madame C.J. Walker's story is representative of the American dream, where tenacity and vision lead to extraordinary success. She was raised in humble surroundings, facing numerous hardships as a Black woman in post-Civil War America. In her early life, she experienced many challenges, including poverty, the loss of her parents, and a tumultuous marriage

Tresses in Turmoil 

Madame Walker's personal journey towards revolutionizing the hair care industry began with a deeply personal struggle. Like many African Americans of her time, she experienced the debilitating effects of hair loss and scalp issues. These issues were far from isolated cases; they were widespread and deeply ingrained in the Black community's collective experience.

To understand the profound impact of Madame C.J. Walker's innovations, we must consider the societal pressures that Black women endured during her era. The beauty standards of the late 19th century and early 20th century often dictated that straightened hair was the epitome of elegance and sophistication. These standards imposed unrealistic expectations on Black women, pushing them to conform to Eurocentric ideals of beauty.

The desire for straightened hair often carried a hefty literal and figurative price tag. Many resorted to the widespread use of intense hair treatments that required a lot of time and attention.  These treatments symbolized the lengths to which Black women were willing to go to meet societal expectations.

Compounding the problem was the scarcity of suitable hair care products tailored to the unique needs of Black hair. The mainstream beauty industry largely ignored these specific requirements, resulting in a dearth of options for women seeking healthier alternatives. This was a stark reflection of the systemic inequalities that marginalized Black voices and needs.

Madame Walker's Solution 

Madame C.J. Walker's emergence as a pioneer was, in part, a response to these societal challenges. She recognized that the beauty industry was failing Black women, and she embarked on a mission to create products that would cater to their unique hair care needs. Her journey was not merely a business endeavor but a radical act of empowerment and defiance against oppressive beauty standards.

Undeterred by adversity, Madame Walker was determined to find a solution. Drawing from her own experiences and driven by the desire to help others, she embarked on a mission to create a line of hair care products that catered specifically to the unique needs of Black hair. This marked the inception of what would become known as the "Walker System."

The "Walker System" primarily consisted of a range of products, including a gentle shampoo, nourishing pomade, and a revolutionary hot comb, designed to cleanse, condition, and straighten hair. These products, infused with Madame Walker's unique blend of ingredients, provided effective solutions while allowing Black women to celebrate their natural beauty without compromising their hair's health.

Madame C.J. Walker's legacy is immeasurable, not only within the beauty industry but also in the realms of entrepreneurship and civil rights. It reminds us that true beauty should never be sacrificed at the altar of conformity, and that the power of innovation can shatter even the most deeply entrenched status quo. That legacy endures today in the thriving natural hair care community. 

Pattern Beauty by Tracee Ellis Ross - Celebrating Natural Hair

Fast forward to the 21st century, and the legacy of Madame C.J. Walker continues to inspire and empower. Actress, producer, and activist Tracee Ellis Ross, known for her iconic roles in television (Girlfriends, Black-ish), decided to create a brand that celebrates the beauty of natural hair textures.

Pattern Beauty, launched by Tracee Ellis Ross in 2019, focuses on providing hair care solutions for curly, coily, and tight-textured hair. The brand acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for Black hair and offers a range of products tailored to different curl patterns and hair types.

Pattern Beauty has not only become a household name but also a movement that encourages individuals to embrace their natural hair textures. It's a celebration of self-expression and authenticity, echoing the spirit of empowerment that Madame C.J. Walker instilled in Black women a century ago.

TPH by Taraji P. Henson - Holistic Scalp and Hair Care

Another trailblazing figure in the world of Black hair care is the multi-talented actress Taraji P. Henson. Known for her powerful performances in film and television (Empire, Hidden Figures), Taraji decided to use her platform to address a common yet often overlooked concern: scalp health.

Launched in 2020, TPH by Taraji is a brand that places a strong emphasis on scalp care, recognizing that a healthy scalp is essential for healthy hair. The products offered by TPH are designed to cleanse, nourish, and maintain optimal scalp health, providing a holistic approach to hair care.

Taraji P. Henson's venture into the beauty industry reflects her commitment to promoting self-care and overall well-being, aligning with the values of self-empowerment deeply rooted in Black history.

This Black History Month, let's pay tribute to the remarkable legacies of Madame C.J. Walker, Tracee Ellis Ross, Taraji P. Henson, and all the Black business owners who have made significant contributions to the care and celebration of natural hair. Their influence on the world of Black hair care has not only revolutionized the beauty industry but has also been a source of empowerment for countless generations. While we applaud their achievements, let's also show our support for Black-owned businesses like HBCU Leggings, and in the spirit of Black History Month, we have a special treat for you.

Introducing our exclusive BHM discount, BETONBLACK24, which offers you an incredible 10% off on our entire store from February 1st to February 29th. This special discount can be used once per customer. As you explore our collection of HBCU-inspired leggings and proudly display your support for Black-owned businesses, you join us in celebrating Black History Month and embracing the rich history and beauty of the Black community.

To enjoy this limited-time offer, visit HBCU Leggings today and seize the opportunity to make a positive impact while celebrating Black excellence.

Love and Leggings,


Bibi Mama is a first generation Beninese-American actress born and raised in Mansfield, CT. Growing up she watched her father, an English professor and author, continue the Yoruba oral tradition through storytelling, which inspired her. She earned her B.F.A. from Howard University and recently finished her MFA at the Old Globe/University of San Diego MFA Graduate Acting Program.
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