Long before Lupita Nyong’o’ graced the red carpet with her dark skin and short natural hair, Cicely Tyson sparked a natural hair movement as far back as the early 1960’s. In Cicely’s interview with Oprah’s Master Class, she explained how she had a role as a young Ugandan woman. It only felt right that she cut her hair and did so without telling the director or production. Her short natural hair was a hot success and led to a secretary role on the show East Side/West Side. She was urged to keep her hair exactly the way it was and it proved to be a big hit. She received mail from beauticians all over the country saying she was affecting their business because everyone wanted to cut their hair like the character on TV. Soon after, the natural hair movement of the 1970’s exploded. Cicely no doubt being the first character on national tv to inspire woman all over the country. Later in 1972 she proudly wore cornrows as the character Rebecca in the highly Oscar nominated film Sounder. Cicely Tyson’s impressive acting career spans nearly 65 years. Even in 2015 she is still making natural hair history. Just last week on the ABC network’s hit program How to get away with Murder, Cicely was seen combing main character Annaliese Keating’s natural hair out. Today we salute Cicely for not only her contributions in acting, but being a natural hair pioneer.
It’s Black History Month year round over here at 16 Stone Vintage. But this year I thought I’d do something special and feature some of my favorite vintage beauties. To kick it off, let’s start with the lovely Ida James. Ida was a singer, actress, and bartender at Harlem’s Sugar Hill Cafe. Her sugary sweet voice was a great contrast when singing with Nat King Cole and his band. Here are some pictures and videos of this sweetie pie Ida James.
“Slave children were taught corn ditties, (the original name for Negro spirituals) to take their young minds off harsh plantation life. They would work & clap their hands in rhythm while singing. Miss Mary Mack happened to be one of those ditties. As other corn ditties, Miss Mary Mack was symbolic in that the Merrimack was an ironclad Union ship coming to fight the confederate army. It was built with rivets (silver buttons) & ships have always been referred to as females. There is also symbolism behind asking her mother (the Confederate States of America) for fifty cents (a metaphor for change) to see the elephants (symbol of the Republican party who “freed the slaves”) jump the fence (Mason-Dixon line).”
As my family reunion approaches this weekend, I feel compelled to finally share some of my family members with you all. Starting with one of the most fascinating members of my family, auntie Jean Terrell. Jean is my grandfather’s sister.
When I was growing up my great grandparents Lovick Jr. and Annie were the rocks of our family. When I was little, they demanded that the family always spent time together. They raised their children with love, tenderness, and respect. All those things trickled down to me. I had access to shining examples of loving individuals in my family. It seemed like every weekend we were at someone’s house singing songs, eating food, and sharing stories. As a result, I grew up with close relationships with my great aunts and uncles, as well as all their children and any other extended family. At one point, my family lived with my great aunt Geniver and my great grandfather Lovick Jr. lived there as well. Since he lived there, everyone in the family would stop by to see him and bring their entire families as well.
One of my fondest childhood memories was the 1992 Terrell Family Reunion. From what I remember it seemed like there was over 200 family members in attendance. The best part was the music. So many of my family member are musically talented. So every family reunion, they would get together as a live band and perform. Although we had much talent in our family as a whole, the standout performer was always auntie Jean. Naturally she would be the best singer in our family since she was a professional. Auntie Jean was once part of the famous girl group The Supremes. She was chosen to take Diana Ross’s place after being discovered while singing with her brother Ernie Terrell’s band.
It was brought to my attention the other day that in all my years in posting on this blog , I’ve never posted Ebony magazines. Admittedly, I’ve always admired Ebony. It was a staple magazine in my household growing up. I’m even featured in some ads in past issues. My mother was friends with Mr. Johnson, the publisher of a lot of these wonderful negro magazines. Every year he would give us free tickets to the world famous Ebony Fashion Fair. In honor of these memories, below are my favorite Ebony covers.