Liberated Threads

Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul

By Tanisha C. Ford

272 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 26 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3613-9
    Published: August 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2515-7
    Published: October 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2516-4
    Published: September 2015
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4687-7
    Published: September 2015

Gender and American Culture

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Awards & distinctions

2016 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award, Organization of American Historians

From the civil rights and Black Power era of the 1960s through antiapartheid activism in the 1980s and beyond, black women have used their clothing, hair, and style not simply as a fashion statement but as a powerful tool of resistance. Whether using stiletto heels as weapons to protect against police attacks or incorporating African-themed designs into everyday wear, these fashion-forward women celebrated their identities and pushed for equality.

In this thought-provoking book, Tanisha C. Ford explores how and why black women in places as far-flung as New York City, Atlanta, London, and Johannesburg incorporated style and beauty culture into their activism. Focusing on the emergence of the “soul style” movement—represented in clothing, jewelry, hairstyles, and more—Liberated Threads shows that black women’s fashion choices became galvanizing symbols of gender and political liberation. Drawing from an eclectic archive, Ford offers a new way of studying how black style and Soul Power moved beyond national boundaries, sparking a global fashion phenomenon. Following celebrities, models, college students, and everyday women as they moved through fashion boutiques, beauty salons, and record stores, Ford narrates the fascinating intertwining histories of Black Freedom and fashion.

About the Author

Tanisha C. Ford is associate professor of Black American studies and history at the University of Delaware.
For more information about Tanisha C. Ford, visit the Author Page.


“Creates a fierce and vibrant dialog on the rarely recounted women's perspective on black style, beauty, and soul." —Library Journal, starred review

“A welcome addition to historical studies of civil rights and black power.” —Journal of American History

“Adds important elements to the conversation on resistance. . . . Highly recommended.”—Choice

“The moving testimonies Ford presents of the black women who lived through soul style’s heyday are proof that activist scholarship motivated by personal experience provides powerful contributions to the field of history.” —Journal of Southern History

“Ambitious and wide-ranging. . . . Makes a powerful and convincing case for how black women practiced the politics of civil rights, black power, and anticolonialism by crafting new, self-affirming appearances and fashions.”—American Historical Review

“A scholarly masterpiece that squarely situates fashion as central to the US civil rights and Black Power eras.”—Winterthur Portfolio

Multimedia & Links

Follow the author on Twitter @SoulistaPhD.