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Black Is Profitable: The Commodification of the Afro, 1960—1975

by Susannah Walker

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The Afro originated in the United States as a style worn by a tiny minority of cosmopolitan black women and developed as a prominent symbol of racial pride in the mid-1960s. Responding to the Afro’s grassroots popularity, the African American beauty culture industry mounted a largely successful effort to transform the style from political statement to fashion commodity. But the commodification of the Afro was not exclusively a cynical exploitation of a political symbol. Rather, the selling of the Afro often entailed a complex blending of ideals, goals, and motivations based, to varying degrees, on considerations of fashion, politics, and the bottom line.

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