Students and professors express their African heritage through their black hairstyles

A number of students and professors on Florida A&M’s campus are sporting traditional black hairstyles.

Although many put a “twist” on hairstyles to be an individual, it still represents characteristics of our ancestors.

Dreadlocks, heavy matted bundles of kinky hair, may be the most controversial look ever.

Possibly more of a statement than a style, dreadlocks have stirred many conversations and raised many eyebrows since their first appearance in the 1970s because of the bold statement they send.

The first known origin of dreadlocks is ancient dynastic Egypt, when African royalty wore the style. However, these thick strands of coiled hair have been linked to the spirituality and rebellion of the Rastafarian society.

The term dreadlock was first recorded in Jamaica during the 1950s because wearers lived in “dread” or fear of a higher spiritual power. The opinion that they looked dreadful is another explanation for the coined term.

French braids, micro braids, cornrows and other types of braiding symbolize the versatile look. Some choose to wear their hair in designs with braids crossed over and under, while others have their hair braided to later undo and achieve a crinkled look.

Braiding is also used as a basic foundation for other hairstyles. Hair braiding is an ancient art form and cultural tradition, which has been practiced since the earliest recorded history and passed down through the ages. Its first appearance dates back to 500 B.C. in ancient Africa.

Despite this lengthy history, braided hair is one of the most popular hairstyles.

Natural hairstyles, whether it is a curly afro or a wild wavy mane, have come to be widely approved.

Before arrival to the United States, Africans let their hair grow freely out the scalp without combing, chemicals or other store bought conditioning products.

They did, however, use herbal treatments. When brought over from Africa, slaves relied on bacon grease; butter and kerosene; and hair conditioners and cleansers.

Now sisters and brothers wear tamed Afros, which were most accepted in the 1970s, and curly coifs.

Short haircuts or “fades” are another look that can be traced back to Africa. They wore their hair low, kinky and as short as possible.

During the mid 1980s, African-American men wanted to reflect that appearance and create a new trend at the same time.

When hip hop music was on the rise, rappers like Doug E. Fresh and members of Run DMC set the tone for the era by donning high top fades and low cuts.

Soon after, women joined the haircut phase breaking down gender role barriers by wearing this masculine style.

For many generations, black hairstyles have reflected the history of Africa and the way our ancestors dominated their culture.

Blacks still embrace their roots: curly, kinky or braided and will continue to embrace their culture.