To the Editor:

African Americans have such a rich history, especially the very way they adorn their hair. Braids were rite of passage for many African women; women of the past, present and future.

Our ancestral background discovered on an ancient slave painting of braids with corn rolls in North Africa dates back a thousand years ago.

The braids had a great purpose. They had a rich history in a way that they adorned their hair. A specific look indicated a clan to which you belonged, your marital status, or age.

The Fula women of the Shahal region utilized long braids. Five long braids all down the back with small tuft hair at the top of the head.

Braids also served another purpose. They became a secret messenger system for the slaves to communicate with each other underneath their master’s nose.

Braids were used as a map to freedom.

The number of braids worn indicated how many roads they needed to walk to escape bondage.

In 1865, emancipation brought about a longing to leave all things reminiscent of the horrific time behind.

But the braids told the story of what slavery was about. Each braid told a story for only the slave to understand. Each braid leads the road to freedom and the only told each other.

What a marvelous way to use braids. The braids had a quality of purpose which gave them more meaning to live for centuries.

Fran Smith

New Milford