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The Grooviest Afros Of The "60s and "70s

Culture | August 31, 2021

Queen of the Supremes and Queen of the Afro, Diana Ross. (allure)

The ‘60s and ‘70s brought many groovy influences into the world but none groovier than the Afro. In reality, the bouncy, effervescent hairstyle represented so much more than an iconic way to wear your hair. The most spectacular singular hairstyle bar none embodied black pride and the emergence of African Americans, denouncing the Eurocentric standards of beauty. Today, black culture stands square in the center of popular culture, no longer fighting for recognition like 40 and 50 years ago. This is the rise of the afros and the most famous ‘fros from Dr. J to Diana Ross.

Oscar Gamble's unparalleled afro. (chicagosuntimes)

Afro’s ‘60 & ‘70s Afro Roots

Obviously, slavery’s role in the abolition of everything black cannot be understated, even today. Up until the ‘60s black people’s hair was cast down as “nappy,” “unruly,” and “wooly” among much worse. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights movement when black people rose up against these racist archetypes and said “I’m black and I’m proud.”

That rising of the tide gave birth to the “Black is Beautiful” movement. From hairstyles to fashion and the way they talked, black people en masse expressed themselves as they wanted, rejecting the systems that tried to keep them down.

Angela Davis, Civil Rights Activist and Black Panther member. (ebony)

Black Power

As Chad Dion Lassiter, president of the Black Men at Penn School of Social Work, Inc. at the University of Pennsylvania explains, the afros of the ‘60s were all about fighting racist norms. “The Afro today holds little to no significance with those political forebears who were radical and posed a threat to the prevailing social order of White supremacy.” Angela Davis boldly spoke truth to power as a civil rights activist and member of the Black Panthers. Her tightly defined afro epitomized the early ‘fros as symbols of fighting white oppression.

The Queen of Blaxploitation films. (colorlines)

Diva ‘Dos

Nevertheless, by the ‘70s thanks to Blaxploitation films like Foxy Brown, the afro made the transition from a black power statement to the cover of mainstream magazines. Pam Grier, one of the trailblazing black stars, helped show a different side to the afro. The star of “Coffy” and “Jackie Brown” utilized her ‘fro to deadly effect, weaponizing it as a place to hide her razor blades. Grier made the afro both dangerous and beautiful.

However, when it comes to all shapes and sizes, no one out afroed the Supremes Diana Ross. Whether it was the tight, asymmetrical bob of ‘60s or the bold and voluminous 70’s ‘fro, Ross could run the gambit. Along her and the Jackson 5, the afro made the leap from counterculture to popular culture.

Dr J set the afro and poster standards in the 70's. (thestartingfive).jpeg.crdownload

Afros In Sports

Julius “The Doctor” Erving remains the godfather of the Afro. “Dr.J” came into popularity in the ABA, his majestic ‘fro seemingly rising higher than athletes had previously gone. Dr. J was the Skywalker of the ‘70s as Michaell Jordan was in the ‘90s. Cupping the groovy red, white, and blue ball of ABA, Erving dunked on his competition with a grace, beauty, and power that set the foundation for today’s high flyers.

When it came to the nation’s pastime, the New York Yankees Oscar Gamble set the standard for afros on the Diamond. "The Big O might have only hit 200 career home runs but his afro remains the iconic ‘do of the New York ‘70s.

Tags: afros | Diana Ross

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!