Cécile Accilien & Seneca Vaught

Black Hair as Transcript of Gendered Experience and an Artifact of Racial Resistance

“Trust the universe and respect your hair”

-Bob Marley  

Hair is fundamentally linked to issues of race, class, colorism, gender, culture and identity. It is the physical manifestation of an intersectional nexus that connects these aforementioned issues and has real impact on the ways in which we interact with others based on our own positionalities. This article thinks deeply through how Black hair often takes on a life of its own, defying the time, space, class, race, and gendered expression of its owner. Taking a longue durée approach in conversation with salon posters, art and artefacts from the collection of the Nationaal Museum of Wereldculturen, and in conversation with the current exhibit Hair Power, on show at the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam through January 2024, this article argues that Black hair presents a social history of resistance to the various attempts to subdue it. 

Full article forthcoming later in 2023. 

We publish these articles as the museums consolidate into one nominal entity, het Wereldmuseum: since the articles were written between 2020 and 2023, they do not yet reflect the March 2023 name change. 

All contributors called into the Un/Engendering research project were asked to think outside their respective specializations. Without their courage, openness, humility, and without the peer reviewers’ generous attention, such an interdisciplinary project could have never taken place.

Image: TM-5773-8 City Boys Art. W. Kumasi. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.  

Introduction and initial inquiries.

Author | Cécile Accilien

Professor of French and Francophone Studies at University of Maryland

Cécile Accilien is Professor of French and Francophone Studies at University of Maryland in the School of Language, Literatures and Cultures in the College of Arts and Humanities. Her area of studies are Francophone African and Caribbean Literatures and Cultures and Film & Media Studies. Her primary research areas are Haitian Studies, Caribbean Popular Cultures, Film and Media Studies and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies.  She is the author of Rethinking Marriage in Francophone African and Caribbean Literatures (Lexington Books, 2008). She has also co-edited and contributed to two collections of essays, Revolutionary Freedoms: A History of Survival, Strength and Imagination in Haiti (Caribbean Studies Press, 2006) and Just Below South: Intercultural Performance in the Caribbean and the U.S. South (University of Virginia Press, 2007); she co-wrote with Jowel Laguerre English-Haitian Creole Phrasebook (McGraw Hill, 2010) and Francophone Cultures Through Film with Nabil Boudraa (Focus Publishing, 2013). She has published articles in the Journal of Haitian StudiesWomen, Gender and Families of Color, Revue françaiseSouthern Quarterly and Diaspora in Caribbean Art. She is the co-editor (with Valerie Orlando) of Teaching Haiti: Strategies for Creating New Narratives (University Press of Florida, 2021) and the co-author (with Krishauna Hines Gaither) of The Antiracism World Language Classroom (Routledge, 2022). Her monograph Bay lodyansHaitian Popular Film Culture is forthcoming with SUNY Press. She is the chair of the Editorial Board of the journal Women, Gender and Families of Color. She is the 2023 president of the Haitian Studies Association. She has written for Truthout and Latin American Commentator. She is  also a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) and Belonging Coach and Consultant. She is co-founder (with Jessica Adams) of Soley Consulting, LLC (


Author | Seneca Vaught

Seneca Vaught, Ph.D. Associate Professor of African Diaspora Studies Kennesaw State University

Seneca Vaught is an associate professor of history and interdisciplinary studies at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. His teaching and research specializations focus on global intersections of race, culture, and policy. His research and teaching agenda in these themes have underscored the use of applied historical methods and engaged interdisciplinary intersections in grassroots policy, organizational development, cultural diplomacy, and anti-racist pedagogy.

Vaught’s forthcoming monograph Narrow Cells, Lost Keys: The Impact of Jails and Prisons on the Civil Rights Era is the culmination of a 10-year study on the historical and historiographical impact of prison on the practice, perception and outcomes of black protest. This work explores the role of law enforcement, civil disobedience, and the role of spatial politics in the rise of the carceral state.

He has published book chapters and numerous articles in Souls, Spectrum, Groundings, Phylon, and Afro-Americans in New York Life and History and won numerous awards for teaching, community engagement, and applied historical research. Most recently, he was awarded the John B. Muir Editor Award by the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Williams Wells Brown Award for accomplishments in these areas.

Vaught has formerly served as editor of Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, commissioner for the New York Underground Railroad Heritage Corridor, senior fellow of information and technology at the Africana Cultures and Policy Studies Institute, and interned at TransAfrica Forum.

Seneca Vaught

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