Week 4 of 4 of our Black History Month reading & listening guide.
Week 4: This Denim Means Equality
It's safe to say that in this day and age, denim is one of the most popular textiles. We often associate it with casual, everyday wear.
But that was no always the case. Denim was once reserved for enslaved Black Indigenous Americans and enslaved Africans. In the 1960s, Black activists donned jeans and overalls to show solidarity with Black sharecroppers in the rural South.
This week's resources will explore the complex history of denim and its relation to race and class.
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Meet This Week's Resources:
How Denim Became a Political Symbol of the 1960s
by Brandon Tensley for Smithsonian Magazine
"Though most people today don’t associate blue denim with the struggle for black freedom, it played a significant role in the [1960's civil rights] movement." Brandon Tensley outlines how denim became a symbol for the past and present, representing sharecroppers and contemporary blue-collar workers.
In the 1960s, denim came to symbolize a different kind of rebelliousness. Black activists donned jeans and overalls to show that racial caste and black poverty were problems worth addressing. “It took Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington to make [jeans] popular,” writes the art historian Caroline A. Jones.
The Role of Fashion in Movements for Justice
Taniqua discusses how business formal attire and denim were used in the 1960s to highlight racism injustice, sexism and classism during the Civil Rights Movement.
"These young activists also wore denim as a sign of solidarity and unity amongst all classes of Black people. When it comes to freedom fighting and the Black Lives Matter movement, we have to understand that that includes all Black lives."
Red, White, and Ingido: The Hidden Commodity of the Slave Trade
by Miko Underwood
The Oak & Acorn ~ Only for the Rebelles 2021 Seasonless collection threads a colorful American Jean Story centering Denim as a cultural, social & political icon in American history.
"The experience of being born Black in America isn’t a monolithic story about slavery, American history is more dynamic than that. In this presentation, we invite you to view a snapshot of America - past, present & future forward through the eyes of Designer Miko Underwood."
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