Post image for New Orleans and the Headwrap-The Tignon

New Orleans and the Headwrap-The Tignon

by kcurly on January 10, 2010

in "It's just hair","Natural" History

Here’s a another example of the attempts of slave owners to impose headwraps on women of African descent as a means of seperation. (Read about Headrags and the Slave here).

A little background:

In New Orleans 1700s, due to the scarcity of European women, it was permissible and acceptable in society for Europeans to have long term extramarrital relationships with women of African descent. The children of these unions as well as a practice for freeing soldiers and workers who excelled at their jobs resulted in a large population of free people of color.

Placage was a recognized system in which European men had something of a common-law marriage to the women of color. It was not unusual for a white man to have a white wife in one area and his placee. Probably for the first time in this new America, these women of color (who were usually cultured, wealthy, and well coiffed)  were perceived as a threat to the local European women. There had also been complaints of men making advances towards Caucasian women, mistaking them for the “mixed race” women.

In response, and to lessen the popularity of the ever growing size of the “people of color”, the governor of Louisiana at the time created what are known as the tignon laws. He required that free women of color wear headwraps. They also were forbidden to wear any fine clothes, plumes or jewelry in their hair, go out at night without a lantern, or gather in assemblages at night.

This law was an attempt to reassign these women to their “proper” station in life. Making them wear a head kerchief was meant to tie them back their slave station in life.

The women who were targeted by this law found a way around it. With their headwraps, called tignon (pronounced tiyon), they used the finest materials and decorated them with ribbons and jewelry. The tignon was worn many different ways by women and became quite the fashion statement.

Needless to say, the Tignon laws had very little effect on the longterm relationships between the two races. The practices of placage continued until the Civil War and Reconstruction occurred.


Creole: the history and legacy of Louisiana’s free people of color By Sybil Kein



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  • Cammyb

    Very informative and interesting

  • Swarthy Daisy

    Very nice historical information. What we had to go through as Black women.

  • Curly Film Chick

    Really interesting info…I’ve been a longtime lurker of your blog and this is why I like it, because of information like this that you incorporate =]

  • OnceUponaTime

    I wonder if there are any websites that give info or directions on how to tie a headwrap in such a style.. even though I realize this was a means to mark women of color and to “put them in their place”, it still does look beautiful and regal.

  • Pingback: It’s a Wrap! – How a piece of cloth can transform your life : DASHEEN magazine

  • Richard Harrison Goree

    Does the word SIGNARES’ mean any thing to you?
    Read my book “Goree’ Island/ Island of No Return”
    The head dress of the TIGNON and the head dress of the SIGNARES are the same – history unfolds.

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