Jasmine Nichole Cobb, "New Growth: The Art and Texture of Black Hair" (Duke UP, 2022)

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From Frederick Douglass to Angela Davis, “natural hair” has been associated with the Black freedom struggle. In New Growth: The Art and Texture of Black Hair (Duke UP, 2022), Jasmine Nichole Cobb traces the history of Afro-textured coiffure, exploring it as a visual material through which to reimagine the sensual experience of Blackness. Through close readings of slave narratives, scrapbooks, travel illustrations, documentary films, and photography as well as collage, craft, and sculpture, from the nineteenth century to the present, Cobb shows how the racial distinctions ascribed to people of African descent become simultaneously visible and tactile. Whether examining Soul Train’s and Ebony’s promotion of the Afro hairstyle alongside styling products or how artists such as Alison Saar and Lorna Simpson underscore the construction of Blackness through the representation of hair, Cobb foregrounds the inseparability of Black hair’s look and feel. Demonstrating that Blackness is palpable through appearance and feeling, Cobb reveals the various ways that people of African descent forge new relationships to the body, public space, and visual culture through the embrace of Black hair.

Mickell Carter is a doctoral student in the department of history at Auburn University. She can be reached at mzc0152@auburn.edu and on twitter @MickellCarter

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