The History Of The Black Barbershop

black barbers

We closed out black history month a few days ago but there is an ongoing consensus that having just 28 days to celebrate or even highlight black history is old the way of doing things. These days people are trying to celebrate black history every single day by sharing forgotten content all year long.

With that said, we were doing some research on black-owned barbershops years ago and how they differ from the barbershops right now and what we found was pretty interesting.

During the 19th century, black owned barbershops used to only cater to rich or powerful white clientele. The reason was rooted in racism and economics because there was no way a barber could do a shave or haircut using the same instruments on a white customer that he used on a black customer or vice versa.

The black shops would prefer white clientele because it was a lucrative way for barbers to feed his family and provide stability in work that kept the black man out of the fields and away from doing hard labor.

When Emancipation was finally granted black barbershops began to open its doors to black men who often used the shop as a sanctuary, a place where they could let down their hair literally and figuratively.

At the same time While things seemed to be looking up, the rise of laws that demanded formal training of barbers lead to the decline of the black barbershop. Barbers faced were required by law to attend Cosmetology school in order to continue their practice which was not easy as the country tried to navigate Emancipation.

In 1934 Henry M. Morgan established Tyler Barber College which is the first ever national chain of barber colleges for African Americans. The colleges trained at least 80 percent of all the black barbers in America and it gave black barbershops a chance to flourish again.

Black barbershops have a significant place in black history and created such and interest that novelists would create books dedicated to what was known as the sanctuary of the black man.

The tradition of going to the shop and escaping from work and the norm dates back to Emancipation days and we have since maintained it within the digital age.

There are barbers who feel as if the traditions of the barbershops are being threatened by the technological development as men and women are now always online, always on their phones, placing little to no value on the human comradary that barbershops bring.

At the end of the day we see both! We see the effect of the digital age and the distance it creates in real time human interaction and we also see barbershops that remain pretty traditional with a vibe that gives black men the ability to escape for a bit and without the cares of the world, even just for an hour.

If you want to know more about the history of the black barbershop, we recommend that you read “Cutting Along the Color Line” by Professor Quincy Mills.

Featured lead image – Craig Head Barbershop


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