Throwback Thursday: How Slaves Used Cornrows Hairstyle as Maps to Escape

Throwback Thursday: How Slaves Used Cornrows Hairstyle as Maps to Escape

While cornrows have become a crowd favourite for women of every culture in the last 10 years, not so many people are familiar with the deep and rich history of the hairstyle that saved the lives of many.

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Cornrows which consists of braiding the hair very close to the scalp in an underhand, upward motion in order to create a single line of raised row, creating the cornrow, have long been a facet of African beauty and life.

How slaves conveyed messages using cornrows

During the Transatlantic Slave Trade, many slaves were made to shave their hair for sanitary reasons. However, there were some slaves who in a bid to appear clean without cutting their hair, braided their hairs tightly in cornrows.

Slaves began to use cornrows to transfer and create maps to leave plantations and the home of their captors.

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According to, since slaves were hardly given any writing material, they used cornrows to convey messages.

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The site explains:

"No one would question or think that one could hide entire maps in their hairstyle, so it was easy to circulate them without anyone finding out about it."
Photos of the cornrows.
Cornrows were used as a means of conveying messages. Photo credit: LaylaBird, The African Exponent
Source: Getty Images

Slaves hid gold in the braids

Afro-Colombia, Ziomara Asprilla Garcia, further explained to the Washington Post in the article, Afro-Colombian women braid messages of freedom in hairstyles:

“In the time of slavery in Colombia, hair braiding was used to relay messages. For example, to signal that they wanted to escape, women would braid a hairstyle called departes. “It had thick, tight braids, braided closely to the scalp and was tied into buns on the top.
"And another style had curved braids, tightly braided on their heads. The curved braids would represent the roads they would [use to] escape. In the braids, they also kept gold and hid seeds which, in the long run, helped them survive after they escaped.”

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Today, cornrows have become widely accepted around the world and are a great fit for all ages, tastes, and lifestyles.

However, the history of how it came about will never be forgotten.

Lady with extremely tight braided hairdo causes stir

Photos of a lady sporting a really tight braided hairdo have left social media users buzzing with mixed feelings.

While every lady appreciates a neatly-done braided hairstyle, it appears there's no limit to how far and how much pain a woman is willing to bear in order to get the perfect hairstyle.

Hair blogger, @nigerianbraids, recently took to their page to share some photos of a lady with an extremely tight - and presumably painful - braided hairdo.

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