Black barber history and racist white beards?
I recently read a few articles about the history of barbering in America, and how black history is so deeply intertwined. It was cool to discover that in the 19th century one out of every 8 affluent black persons was a barbershop owner. I always logically thought that due to segregation that black barbers only cut black clients, but it was very interesting to find out that black barbers cut more white people than they did blacks, and put a lot of white barbershop's out of business. Prior to the civil war, slaves would be seen cutting their masters hair and also giving them straight razor shaves. After the civil war, freed slaves used this skill as a means to create wealth. Blacks at the time were the servant class of people and often did jobs that whites did not want to do. Because of their willingness to serve, and their new found pride as business owners, black owned barbershops flourished.
However some racist, conservative whites who saw that blacks were becoming wealthy due to barbering and other trades decided a boycott was in order. Some whites began to grow beards in protest. They'd rather go unshaven than to see blacks become wealthy. But this boycott did little to stop the progress of black owned barbershops.
Alonzo Herndon for example was born into slavery in 1858 and by the time of his death in 1927 he was Atlanta's wealthiest person, and first ever millionaire. He owned the biggest and best barbershops in Atlanta, over 100 residential and commercial properties, and started a Life Insurance company that still thrives today.
I think we are living in an interesting time. Jobs are becoming more scarce, education-wise a masters degree is needed just to compete in today's market. But skills, crafts and trades are making a comeback. We will see more barbers, electricians, carpenters, plumbers etc, which in my opinion are careers that are vital to our society, and can be just as important as a career that requires a college degree.
America has a crazy, almost unreal history when it comes to slavery and it's relation to so many things. I often wonder how anyone was able to survive. I feel a certain pressure to be successful. I was born free here in America, with way more opportunity than a lot of others had before me. I would be a fool to squander that opportunity.
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