Zora Neale Hurston, the renowned anthropologist and folklorist, observed in 1926 that “the will to adorn” is one of the primary characteristics of African American expression. Like speech, quilting, and musical forms such as the blues, African American dress and body adornment are expressive art forms grounded in the history and experiences of African-descended populations. They have been shaped by the legacies of slavery, the civil rights movement, and more recent African diasporas. They reveal continuities of ideas, values, skills, and knowledge rooted in the African continent and the American experience.
DanceAfrica Bazaar, 2009. Photo by Jade Banks