Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Hairdressing of African Americans, African American women college students-Psychology, Hair-Social aspects, African American women-Race identity, Black women, Identity, College students, Natural hair, Injury, Internalized racism, Social work


The study sought to explore the self-identity motives, challenges, and rewards of the natural hair transformation experienced by Black women college students. Women in this study made the decision to stop the use of chemicals that alter the natural state of their hair. The study found that while many participants faced resistance and negative reactions from their families and individuals in their social circles, most described the natural hair transformation as one that was ultimately empowering across several categories of identity. At the same time, participants described immediate and lasting injuries, both physical and psychological, resulting from the use of chemical relaxers before the initiation of the natural hair transformation, as well as from the negative reactions they received once they had begun the transformation. Many women found support with other natural haired women. From this support they have been able to work towards healing and repairing the psychological injuries and scars. Implications for social work practice and recommendations for future research are discussed.




v, 80 p. : col. ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 67-70)

Limited Access until August 2017