Shocking Tignon Laws: Black Women Ordered to Wear Headdress to Hide Beauty in Louisiana

Written by Jae Jones

During the late 18th century it was against the law for & multiracial women to wear their hair out in public. They were ordered for it to be covered in public places. In Louisiana women were order to use a fabric cloth as part of the Bando du buen gobierno (Law for Good Government). The laws were intended to restrain the growing influence of freedom within the Black population and keep social peace. The edict included sections specifically about the changing of certain “unacceptable” behaviors of the free black women in the colony including putting an end to what he and others believed to be the overly ostentatious hairstyles of these ladies which drew the attention of white men, and the jealousy of white women.

To prevent this, Governor Miró decreed that women of African descent, slave or free, should cover their hair and heads with a knotted headdress and refrain from “excessive attention to dress” to maintain class distinctions, known as the Tignon Laws. Black women were wearing their hair in such fashionable ways with jewels, feathers and high hairdos, until the white women felt it was threatening them and their  relationships at home. Again, it is said the law was meant to distinguish women of color from their white counterparts and to minimize their beauty.

Black and multi-racial women began to adopt the tignon, but not without a little ingenuity. Many tied the tignon in elaborate ways and used beautiful fabrics and other additions to the headdress to make them appealing. In the end, what was meant to draw less on enhanced their beauty even more.

Tignons worn by free women of color or enslaved women in Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Dominica even had hidden messages. The tignon is experiencing a revival in Louisiana. It is found particularly in Creole-themed weddings.  Today, celebrities such as Erykah Badu and Jill Scott continue to wear headdresses, as a celebration of Afro-American culture.



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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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