In Untold History‘s Museum of Artifacts That Made America, an ancient grooming tool takes on new meaning in the 20th century. Designed for a client in 1972, Italian businessman Anthony R. Romani combined an afro comb handle with a raised fist, a global symbol of fighting oppression as well as a hand signal for both anti-racism and for Black pride, self-reliance, and self-determination. From the video:
Africans had been using picks made from wood, bone, or ivory to style their hair for over 5000 years. Some ancient picks were decorated with symbols to represent their owner’s status or tribal affiliation others were given as gifts to end or seal a friendship.
In the 1950s the idea that European hairstyles were more acceptable influenced many African Americans to straighten their hair with a hot chemical mixture but during the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, the African-American community began to shun ideals of European beauty and embrace their natural unprocessed hair. Anthony Romani’s evocative design politicized the pick by incorporating the Black power salute, a symbol of protest associated with the Black Panther movement and made famous by African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos when they saluted on the podium at the 1968 Olympics.
Untold is a free collection of short, compelling, history videos and animations designed to engage new audiences in a new conversation and shine a light on the stories that don’t always make it into the classroom and question what we think we know about those that do. Untold is here to fill in the gaps and bring new stories to life.
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• A New Republic: The portrait work of artist Kehinde Wiley
• Hair Love, the Oscar-winning animation
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