ABOUT THE FILM
“At the bottom of education, at the bottom of politics, even at the bottom of religion, there must be, for our race, economic independence." Booker T. Washington
Although, the empires created by the original black entrepreneurs have all since dwindled or transferred ownership to multi-national groups, we believe it is crucial that the history and achievements of these visionary black entrepreneurs be remembered and celebrated. Their wealth served as an incubator of growth for a variety of philanthropic, social, educational and economic endeavors that lifted the black community. The black hair care industry was one of the first to provide a path for American blacks, particularly black women, to establish economic independence.
While there have been several documentaries about the cultural impact of black hair Including the widely acclaimed Chris Rock film “Good Hair” (2009), the controversial short film by Aron Ranen “Black Hair Documentary: The Korean Takeover (2006) and “In Our Heads About Our Hair (2012), none of these films have related the histories of the black entrepreneurs who pioneered the black hair care industry, for the most part, on their own terms.
BLACK HAIR EMPIRE will also examine the social and political impact these entrepreneurial pioneers had upon their communities. Some know Madam C.J. Walker was one of the first female American millionaires, but few realize she was a key figure in the NAACP’s Anti-Lynching campaign, starting in 1916. Few know that Samuel B. Fuller, another hair care entrepreneur, once had a workforce of 5,000 -- one third of whom were white. Few remember that the color barrier-breaking television series "SOUL TRAIN” was only made possible by the financial sponsorship of Johnson Products, a black owned hair care company….or why black hairstyles were an integral part of the national dialogue about the Civil Rights Movement. These are some of the stories that will be told in BLACK HAIR EMPIRE.
Today, as viewers will also learn in BLACK HAIR EMPIRE, after decades of lawsuits, institutionalized racism, takeovers and questionable competitive practices by mainstream corporations, black-owned hair care companies are once again part of the marketplace. The next generations must be inspired by the history of these individuals of great character and unrelenting optimism who were the pioneers of black entrepreneurism. These were people who rose from the horrors of slavery, endured the humiliations of Jim Crow laws, and dared to migrate to unknown parts of the country in search of better opportunities. They did what many believed could not be done. Their history must be preserved and remembered to challenge the current generation to see if what was once accomplished can be achieved again. We believe BLACK HAIR EMPIRE will be a vital component of that effort.
Today, most products made for black hair are not manufactured by black-owned companies but that was not always the case. BLACK HAIR EMPIRE tells the stories of former day laborers, sharecroppers, schoolteachers, and tradesmen who pursued and realized the American Dream by founding ethnic hair care companies. It weaves an epic tale of five generations of African Americans who revolutionized the personal care industry. Their products and advertising popularized an African-American mystique that sold hugely. The very idea that African Americans could be both proud and beautiful challenged the nation’s racist conceptions about its black citizens and their feelings about themselves.
The Untold Story of How Black Hair...Became Black Power