Escondido Exhibit Untangles History of Hair
This is KPBS midday addition and I am Tom. And exhibit opens this weekend at the California Center for the arts Escondido. It takes a different look at African American culture and history. By focusing on here. The way that black hair looks, feels, can and cannot be style has been an ongoing theme in black cultural identity. The exhibit takes a comprehensive view of the subject -- it is called the history and hair story -- 400 years without a calm. Time to talk about that are Dr. Willie Morrow and Leah Goodwin. Dr. Willie Morrow is a pioneer in modern haircare products for African-Americans and a longtime Barber. Thank you very much for coming in. Thank you Leah Goodwin is director of the California Center of performing arts Escondido. Thank you. I am director of the museum. All you are the director -- I said something else. Thank you for coming in. Let me just say listenings -- listeners out there if you have a story to tell about doing your hair and if you are African-American us a call. The number is 888-895-5727. Willie this exhibition I think is being described by a video you made years ago called 400 years without a comb. That is true Tell us about that Is a step-by-step video about hair and history. White -- I guess you need to talk about yourself. Some people defined and talk about themselves -- it all started in Alabama and I said I need to do something about this. There was little material available so I found some material. Was not so much about the years without a comb -- it was about the first beauty book. On a hairstylist by trade. I think you have contributed your collection of haircare devices to the exhibit. Why don't you tell us what some of those are. First of all it is the book -- 400 years without a comb. The first beauty book. It is a number that will be at the California center of arts. I would like to add in tomorrow has an extensive collection of African artifacts, the African calm Scott and the story of the Combs. Curling irons, compresses all of the things that went into hair. Dr. Morrow is being humble. He created the African American pick comb that has been used in society as well as the Jerry curl and many products that have been used throughout. As well as training the military -- how to work with my care. We will get to that two. Why don't you tell us Leah how do these things relate in your view to the history of black culture. Part of our culture -- that we came with our anatomy. Basically a comb. As we assimilated into the Americas, appearance has become a long-standing -- I think a long-standing issue, dilemma, of creativity. Very much part of our culture of our hair. The first time I ever thought about -- and I am not African-American The first time I thought about black hair was when I read the autobiography of Malcolm X. He told many stories about what he did to try to straighten his hair that in the old days. They were very painful stories. He gave me the impression that he felt a lot of black people were doing this so that they could look more white. Who would like to talk about that was my Malcolm X was straightening hair with the [ NULL ] -- company. We use hair straighteners to make curly hair straight. It would not smack in the comb. So Malcolm X was doing that and I did a scene like that in the movie where -- it burns and hurts. You put it on and you have to get it off in about five minutes. Malcolm X stuck his head in a commode -- to cool the head down. That was one of the first products that black people made. My history takes me back to all of that. What the California Center for the arts did is they brought all of that history to the forefront. We came from Africa -- we went 400 years without a comb. What was it you invented? A pick comb? I infinite -- the first pick comb ever made in America. The union newspaper called me crawling out of a trashcan over on Main Street in southern San Diego. Getting the what out of the trashcan and making Combs. I could not afford the ward -- I just got it wherever I can find it. Is the pick comb the comb that is used by African Americans that is very common? It has white teeth. I showed how to use it, how it was created -- they did not take the trip from Africa, during the Afro movement. The reason you created it is it would be something that say a black man might be able to get through his hair. Yes I created a comb, the method, the use and everything. I created the whole thing. When I first discovered the comb, someone brought it from Africa in the 60s. I try to carve it out of teakwood. I tried it for about two weeks is that this will not work. So I have to make it by machine -- that machine is being displayed at the use them for the center of the arts. She will have that machine with a symbol of how the comb was made and how it was put together, how it was put together. Via the me get back to the question about the straightening a pair. There must have been a time in the 1960s in the black is beautiful movement where they considered straightening hair to be wrong for some reason. What do we think about it today? I think that dialogue is still continuing even today. And Chris rock's good hair -- you will see that. Is really about loving yourself and doing what you want to do with your hair. What Dr. Morrow -- he is an inventor. He has the patents for these Combs that are still being used today. He created the Jerry curl -- get your hair curled and soften without all the pain and the brunt of the chemicals. I think today hair is a dialogue that goes across cultures and people. We have artist selling their stories. I think that Leah -- one thing we did not mention, the state is deeply imprinted in my career. It was Dr. Hampton from Samuel state that provided me with the first technical work from the depth biology department to help me with some of the really -- things that I did. How I became a chemist and developed into an artist in the hair world. My guests are Dr. Willie Morrow and Leah Goodwin. Willie Morrow is a pioneer in haircare products for African-Americans and a longtime Barber. Willie one thing we were talking about before is that you actually went to, was it the Navy? The armed forces and taught them how to cut like men's hair. The ingrown hair -- I talked -- taught the history of [Indiscernible] about the -- ingrown hair. I was an authority on the subject of hair so I don't with all of those subjects which you will find in my book which will be featured at the California Center for the arts. Aside from that -- the ingrown hair you're talking about, was there something the Navy barbers did not understand? They learn how to cut hair -- I will never forget the company up and said can you come to Texas to demonstrate your technique. I set yes -- so I went. I had provided books for San Diego schools -- many of these pieces you will see at the use down. I did books for grooming and [Indiscernible] I did all that stuff., To the military, I was never a part -- I was probably the only guy in the world that had ever been in the war zone of Vietnam and to Africa. I've been everywhere in the world. It was just -- I taught it I taught hairstyle around the world three or four times. Via let's talk about the exhibit little bit more. Does the exhibit take people to time? Yes When does it start? We start on arrival in America. We came here on the slave ships. We pretty much start right when we come in with the images of our hair. Dr. Morrow hired a lot of artists to make the artwork for his books. We have the original artwork from [Indiscernible], our local artists. We're going to take you on a journey. We talked about the conch and how people say degeneration of my X -- Malcolm X to get their hair. If we go back to the 19 century is there something you can tell us about black hair from that time? We have the original hair combs that would heat them up. We talk about the hot Combs, the conch was a clean way of doing it. That was not the original way. The original way what's with a high home that they put in a fire. They would take a peanut butter can and get the top off and put the pan into the fire. Then they will straighten the hair. They would do that -- that would cause the greasy straight book. That were called to press and curl. All that you will see at the center when you come there. All of these things are featured. Is the precursor to the curling irons and the flat irons that we use today. I have always been jealous of black men because they are able to pull off baldness a little bit better than white men are. The 17th century, 16th century they were not balk at all. Now everyone is bald. They did not have any hair -- I have a little hair. The reason I brought this up is because we're out of time -- and I wanted to talk about modern hairstyles. Among men, you see a lot of men who have shaped heads. The best-known African American in the United States, President. Obama has a very short haircut. I guess that is the current style. The Mohawk -- the message the head looks the better the haircut. Clean on the sides. What about women? What are some of the new hairstyles you would like to talk about was not I think one thing we also have in this exhibit is the sister locks movement. Grading and weaving. I think women are free now to use their hair in creative expression without being treated differently in the workplace which was a factory in the 70s. There is a natural movement -- it's my hair it is natural and I can change it any way I want. I think right now it is all women -- I think black women but definitely all women are having a good time and more enjoyment of playing with their hair. When you were young, and you were in high school going to college was it something you spend time thinking about? I was in Berkeley. I can guess what your hair look like. Yes -- I actually went in the 70s following Angela Davis and my Afro was on par with hers. Willie any last words? The California Center for the arts -- we will feature all facets of it. I can talk about any part you want to talk about. Whatever it is you want to talk about hair I can talk about hair, the way it is shaped how it looks, the scanned copy problems -- I will be there signing books. I will be there with Leah. Willie Morrow is a pioneer in modern haircare products for African-Americans. A longtime Barber in lemon Grove. Willie thank you so much for coming. Leah Goodwin is director of museum and education at the California Center for the arts Escondido -- thank you very much. This opens on the 15th -- this Saturday. It opens this Saturday. It will be there until March 5. Okay, thank you.
A new exhibit in Escondido explores African-American culture and identity by starting at the barber shop.
“The History and Hair Story: 400 Years Without A Comb” opens Saturday at the California Center for the Arts and it follows hair trends from Africa, from the slave trade era until modern times.
The exhibit highlights 400 years worth of photographs, artifacts and historical accounts on the African American hair industry.
How have black hair styles evolved throughout history and where do some of these styles originate from?
What do these trends reveal about the history of black culture?
Dr. Willie Morrow, a pioneer in modern hair care products for African Americans and a longtime barber in Lemon Grove, and Leah Goodwin, the director of the California Center for the Arts, talk about the exhibit and the evolution of hair styles and trends Monday on Midday Edition.