Styling Jim Crow
African American Beauty Training during Segregation
Women's Studies - African American Studies
6.125 x 9.25, 224 pp.
16 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 04/24/2003
Price:        $29.95 s


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Styling Jim Crow

African American Beauty Training during Segregation

By Julia Kirk Blackwelder

Styling Jim Crow focuses on the beauty education industry in racially segregated communities from World War I through the 1960s. In this study of two black beauty companies of the Jim Crow era, Julia Kirk Blackwelder looks at the industry as a locus of black entrepreneurial effort and an opportunity for young women to obtain training and income that promised social mobility within the African American community. Blackwelder demonstrates that commerce, gender norms, politics, and culture all intersected inside African American beauty schools of the Jim Crow era. The book centers on Marjorie Stewart Joyner of the Madam C. J. Walker beauty chain and James H. Jemison of the Franklin School of Beauty, two educators who worked throughout their business lives to liberate women from the clutches of racial prejudices. They stood at the helms of enterprises that brought self-reliance and pride of accomplishment to generations of African Americans.

In Blackwelder’s well-documented story and clearly argued analysis, the history of African American beauty education shows how succeeding generations of black women, in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, freed themselves from a life of service to whites and advanced into dignified economic independence though work that they and their clients valued for its intangible worth.

Julia Kirk Blackwelder is associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and a professor of history at Texas A&M University, where she has taught since 1993. In her two earlier books published by Texas A&M University Press and in her many articles and essays, she has focused primarily on aspects of women and work. That interest led her to the archives of African American beauty schools and the writing of Styling Jim Crow. Blackwelder earned her Ph.D. from Emory University.

What Readers Are Saying:

Styling Jim Crow tells of a little sement of black life in days that many of us regret and want to forget. Get a copy of these interesting book and you’ll gain a new appreciation for the accomplishments of a brave group of people.” --Mexia Daily News

“Her book remains an important contribution to understanding how African-American women (and men) often with great resourcefulness and stamina, negotiated the constraints imposed by Jim Crow and built lives for themselves.” --The Women’s Review of Books

“Indeed, one of the distinguishing characteristics of Blackwelder’s account is its astute attention to the myriad, subtle relationships between state political power and the business of beauty. . . This unusual attention to racial inequities in state licensing procedures and requirements marks a particularly important contribution to recent scholarship on the beauty industry. . .this new history opens the door for further exploration of the relationships between church, state, and the care and treatment of the individual body. Styling Jim Crow’s discussion of the interplay of racial segregation and private enterprise should interest many readers of Enterprise & Society, particularly those engaged in understanding the massively lucrative business of beauty.” --Enterprise & Society

“An engaging case study of entrepreneurs in the African American cosmetology industry during the Jim Crow era and beyond. . . The focus on black beauty operators contributes a layer of complexity to tendencies in scholarship to relegate valuation of images of femininity and respectability to the black middle class.” --The Journal of American History

“Julia Kirk Blackwelder’s book, Styling Jim Crow: African American Beauty Training During Segregation, is an important contribution to this scholarship [female entrepreneurship]. . . This is an important insight, but it seems possible that some conflicts between separatist and integrationist ideologies in black beauty education existed nevertheless. . . Styling Jim Crow is a valuable contribution to scholarship on race, gender, and beauty entrepreneurship.” --Journal of American Ethnic History

“Julia Blackwelder documents the history of African-American beauty schools, and shows the crucial economic role and political leadership of black beauticians in the struggle against segregation. Styling Jim Crow reveals a little-known yet significant dimension of American beauty culture.” --Kathy Peiss, author, Hope in a Jar


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