This photo is a sitcom advertisement from one of television’s first sitcom “Julia” which featured an African American actress named Dianne Carroll. “Julia 1968”
The sitcom “Julia” changed African American communities once it hit television networks. Julia portrayed a single widowed African American woman who was raising a son, juggling a career, and finding her own identity. However with relaxed chemical hair, it was unclear whether Julia truly portrayed what an “real” African American woman looked like.
Julia to a certain extent appeared to be what mainstream White America thought African American women should look like in contrast to the more Black Natural Hair Movement that was drawing attention in the 1960s and displayed by Yoruba in John Oliver Killens “The Cotillion“.
In the advertisement above, Julia is seen as an African American mother with a loving son. However, Julia’s hair is very different from that of African American women of the time. Julia seems to have a relaxer chemical that has taken the natural, thick, and course African American hair and turned it into a more mainstream straight, and manageable hairstyle. During the 1960’s a African American woman’s hair had become a staple in defining what black meant. Women such as Angela Davis sported large Afros to display their Black identity. From this sitcom advertisement, it is clear that the actor Dianne Carroll had to change her hair in order to not only be a television actress but also fit into the mainstream white america.
The above clip comes from a scene where Julia is applying for a new nursing job. The doctor calls her and tells her to immediately pretty herself up. Julia seems hesitant and ask the doctor if he knew she was colored. This scene shows the misconstrued conception of what beauty is, which was one of the biggest issue African American faced during the 1960s. Julia doesn’t know whether her beauty would be enough or even acceptable to the white doctor so she makes it a point to let him know that she is colored.
In both the sitcom advertisement and the scene, Julia is juggling the idea of beauty with her own identity. In a time where not having natural hair distanced you from other African Americans, Julia portrays the struggles of still trying to remain true to her identity and find a space in white America. Yoruba in the “The Cotillion” faces many of the same issues. She cuts her long beautiful hair into a short natural chop because it was seen as being more “down with the cause” and embracing of her own Black identity.
With the idea of beauty, African Americans and mainstream White America floating around, it proved to be very hard to define what pretty meant for African Americans. The struggle continues today also with many young African American woman. It is an internal struggle of prettying yourself up to fit your own identity or the identity others expect you to take on.
Image: Julia Advertisement Sitcom. http://www.sitcomsonline.com.August 16th 2005. March 19th 2013.
Video: Julia Sitcom. http://www.youtube.com.March19th2013
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