"In January 1961, fifty-two African American beauticians gathered at the Highlander Folk School, a tiny bastion of racial integration perched in the mountains of Tennessee. They had come to discuss their role in the struggle against American racism. While historians have long acknowledged the importance of gendered networks and women’s organizing within the African American freedom struggle, the history of the beauticians who gathered at Highlander demonstrates the importance of professional networks as a bridge between different local struggles. In their skill at building networks, and their attention to the patient labor required of such building, beauticians were emblematic of the organizing prowess demonstrated by women throughout the civil rights movement. But unlike most African American women, beauticians had the economic independence and social prominence to gain positions of power usually reserved for men. The intersection of their class status and their gendered identity magnified the liminal status of beauticians—and gave that status special power. As they debated their role in the movement, the beauticians who gathered at Highlander struggled to navigate between autonomy and connection, and between participatory democracy and institutional hierarchy. Their struggles reveal the inevitable tension that marked social networks within a movement that challenged not only the forces of white supremacy, but also the inequalities of status and economic power that transcended the color line."
Nico Slate, "Article: Beauty and Power: Beauticians, the Highlander Folk School, and Women’s Professional Networks in the Civil Rights Movement", contributed by Prerna Srigyan, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 2 April 2023, accessed 9 December 2023. https://stsinfrastructures.org/content/article-beauty-and-power-beauticians-highlander-folk-school-and-women’s-professional