Business and Commerce

Black-Owned Businesses

What is the historical role of the beauty shop in the African-American community?

Much like barbershops, beauty shops played an important role in black economic development. For the most part, the fine black artisans in the beauty shop industry worked outside the South. The beauty industry was one of the most popular black businesses of this period. Although some of these shops had black clientele, they catered to whites in order to survive in the racially segregated South, and began to thrive in their own communities when self-help activities for blacks were stressed to promote black economic development. Still-celebrated icons in the early industry are Madam C. J. Walker (1867–1919), Sarah Spencer Washington (1889–1953), and Annie Turnbo Malone (1869–1957), who owned manufacturing companies and established beauty schools, thus revolutionizing the care of black hair. Leading salon owners and stylists who emerged after the 1920s were the Cardozo sisters in Washington, D.C., Christine Moore Howell (1889–1972), Rose Morgan (1912–2008), and Joe L. Dudley (1939–). Black barber and beauty shops, which represented a cross-section of the community, were vital to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and became political incubators for politicians and civil rights workers. In 2005 the comedy film Beauty Parlor was released; it highlighted the black beauty shop industry.


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