The best books celebrating Black hair

St. Clair Detrick-Jules Author Of My Beautiful Black Hair: 101 Natural Hair Stories from the Sisterhood
By St. Clair Detrick-Jules

Who am I?

I’m an Afro-Caribbean-American filmmaker, photographer, author, and activist from Washington, DC. After graduating from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts in French and Francophone Studies, I began pursuing a completely different career path: social activism through art and storytelling. I capture personal stories and intimate moments centering on Black liberation, immigrant justice, and women’s rights. My work is grounded in radical love, joy, and the knowledge that a more just world is possible. My award-winning documentary DACAmented has been internationally recognized, and my book My Beautiful Black Hair has been featured in The Washington Post, Buzzfeed News, and NPR’s Strange Fruit, among others.

I wrote...

My Beautiful Black Hair: 101 Natural Hair Stories from the Sisterhood

By St. Clair Detrick-Jules,

Book cover of My Beautiful Black Hair: 101 Natural Hair Stories from the Sisterhood

What is my book about?

One hundred and one Black women share their stories of learning to love their natural hair. The stories captured in the book reveal both the depth of the physical and emotional damage done to many women by relaxing their hair and trying to make it look “acceptable,” and the incredible resilience, self-love, and acceptance they gained by embracing their hair and freeing themselves from Eurocentric beauty standards.

Accompanied by beautiful and intimate photographs of each woman and dedicated to St. Clair’s little sister who was bullied for her afro, My Beautiful Black Hair is an encouraging voice for all Black women working towards self-acceptance.

The books I picked & why

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Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture

By Emma Dabiri,

Book cover of Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture

Why this book?

Dabiri’s use of history and personal storytelling to deconstruct and illuminate the long story of Black hair is crucial in that it allows readers to understand that our Black hair has history. The movement against natural Black hair is rooted in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and our own structures of government have always backed the anti-blackness that criminalized, scapegoated, or invisibilized our hair; this book celebrates our natural hair but also serves as historical education, which is so important if we’re to see natural Black hair not as a stylish trend but as a necessary part of our liberation. Dabiri reminds us that, while our hair is so often used as a weapon against us, it also has the power to liberate us.

Afros: A Celebration of Natural Hair

By Michael July,

Book cover of Afros: A Celebration of Natural Hair

Why this book?

I love these photos! Afros: A Celebration of Natural Hair perfectly captures the power, strength, and diversity of the afro. July has done a phenomenal job using his camera to showcase the absolute beauty of natural hair. While photography in its beginnings was often used as an instrument of anti-Blackness, with scientists and others using pictures to “prove” that Black people were somehow less than human, July has done a phenomenal job upending this by using his camera to create an affirmation by and for Black folks, reminding us to let go of Eurocentric beauty standards and embrace our crowns.

Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America

By Ayana D. Byrd, Lori L. Tharps,

Book cover of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America

Why this book?

This is, to me, the “OG” of Black hair books in the last half-century. I discovered this book by accident a few years ago early one evening and ended up reading late into the night: page by page, Byrd and Tharps provide a first-rate history about natural Black hair. Learning about the hair customs of my ancestors before the onslaught of the Transatlantic Slave Trade made me proud of my curls and strengthened my resolve to continue their brilliant, necessary work on the roots of Black hair.

Queens: Portraits of Black Women and their Fabulous Hair

By Michael Cunningham, George Alexander,

Book cover of Queens: Portraits of Black Women and their Fabulous Hair

Why this book?

The narratives in this book from women in the United States, London, and Ghana--accompanied by gorgeous portraits--capture a slice of the Black hair diaspora and the place where it all started: West Africa. The title says it all and yet can’t begin to capture the gorgeous array of women, hairstyles, and lived experiences captured by Cunningham and Alexander.

Hair Love

By Matthew A. Cherry, Vashti Harrison,

Book cover of Hair Love

Why this book?

According to the CDC, Black dads are actually more likely than their non-Black counterparts to “feed, eat with, bathe, diaper, dress, play with, and read to” their kids on a daily basis. Cherry’s book is both a cute story for kids and an important counterpoint to the pervasive, damaging myth that Black fathers are somehow not as involved in their children’s lives. Harrison’s illustrations are fun, the story is laser-focused on a little girl’s hair struggles and her father’s many attempts to “do” his daughter’s hair, and the ending is magical. This could be--if it’s not already--the next iconic children’s book, alongside Goodnight Moon and I Love You to the Moon and Back.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in hair, Black women, and Black hair?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about hair, Black women, and Black hair.

Hair Explore 6 books about hair
Black Women Explore 12 books about Black women
Black Hair Explore 3 books about Black hair

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Claire Blair's Unruly Hair: A Curly-Girl Tale (Brown Hair), My Hair Is a Garden, and Hair Peace if you like this list.