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Multicultural and Interdisciplinary Education

through African American Women’s

Children’s Literature

Giovanni N. Dortch, MA
Department of Sociology, University of North Texas
F. Reanae McNeal
Department of Women’s Studies, Texas Woman’s University
This poster explores a community based multicultural and
interdisciplinary class activity and programming event. In it,
we use Dr. Carolivia Herron’s children’s book Nappy Hair
to examine, document and discuss the historical, political,
cultural and familial policing of Black girl’s and women’s
hair. This book was a highly controversial text at its time of
release, however, we find its content and message to still
be useful, practical and easily implemented into the dialog
on appearance and image today. It has proven applicable
across disciplines such as the arts, humanities, education,
law, business, technology and social sciences. It is an
excellent tool for interdisciplinary and multicultural
BACKGROUND: This text was based on some of Dr. Herron’s personal
experiences in her family and at Harvard University. It is a documentation not
only of her personal experiences, but also a message to women and girls of
color who have been put in the awkward position of explaining their hair, or
having their hair policed.

RELEVANCE: This text was highly controversial when released and used in
elementary schools. Even though this was the case, we contend that the text is
still useful and relevant in contemporary discussions of the experiences of
women and girls of color.

MULTICULTURAL: This text explores issues that are relevant to communities

of color, in a way that facilitates cross cultural dialog and inclusion.

CONTENT: The text addresses beauty standards, beauty practices, and body
image in the context of family, community , and society. The use of a classroom
activity and programming event grounds the text and various discussions in
community and community practices.
ORGANIZATION: Members of the TWU Women’s Studies Graduate Student
Association and the Women’s Studies community at UNT met to plan and
discuss hosting the event, panelists, and discussion topics.

EVENT: An evening program was held for students and university members.
The event included an introduction to the text, a call and response reading of
the text, and panelists delivered presentations on various disciplinary
perspectives of the policing of Black Women’s Hair.

METHOD: The African American oral storytelling tradition

of “call and response” was utilized to share the story.
Panelists Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Motherhood: Brenda’s mother is missing from the narrative, however, in “real
life” mothers are often held accountable for their children’s appearances and
hair care. In essence, Black Motherhood is explored in connection to Black
girl’s hair.
Natural Hair and Employment : Public space has been an arena for the
critique and policing of Black women and girl’s hair. Black women have been
restricted legally and punished economically due to a rejection of their hair in
it’s natural state.
Social Networking: Black women have utilized social networking sites such
as Facebook and YouTube to connect with one another, as well as teach each
other about the care of their natural hair. They use these sites to create
community, document their hair experiences, exchange product and style
information, to empower themselves and resist the dominant mandate for
“appropriate” hair.
History, Politics and Culture: The historical, sociopolitical and cultural
examination of Black women and girl’s hair reveals a site of policing,
assimilation, resistance and reclaiming. Despite continued efforts to police
Black women and girl’s hair, these women and girls claim, define and create
their own definitions and representations of themselves and their hair.
These images represent the
progression of thought around
Black women and girl’s hair over
the last 500 years.
Multicultural and Interdisciplinary Education

This programming event brings womanist pedagogical methods from theory

to practice.

 The event addresses the issue of “policing” from multiple


 The program facilitates understanding across cultures.

 The format uses multiple learning styles and opportunities to engage the
audience in diverse ways.

 The use of the text and programming brings dialogs on difference into the

 Develops an understanding of how bodies are impacted by hegemonic


 Enhances critical thinking skills through interdisciplinary knowledge

 Herron, Carolivia. Nappy Hair. New York: Dragonfly, 1998. Print.

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