From the time of the revolution of 1848 until the Second World War, it was hard to find anyone talking about freedom. But that changed with the publication of the first book by a black woman in the U.S.: The Joy of Freedom and Its Place In a Society. This book, co-written by Harriet Tubman, who served in the Underground Railroad, helped to raise the question, ‘Who do you think you are, a free black woman?’ In the 1930s, Flappers: A History of Flapper Culture was published and revealed more and more of the lives of black women in the U.S.
The popularity of American films influenced the evolution of the image of freedom. The earliest pictures of the flapper girl were in Hollywood films, and it wasn’t long before the flapper image was made to look just like the woman portrayed by the films. Even with that transformation, the flapper has remained a symbol of rebellion for millions of women everywhere.
What does it mean to be a freedom flapper? There is no such thing as one single definition. For a woman living in the United States today, being a freedom flapper means many things. It means having the freedom to travel by herself, even to her own country. It means having the ability to choose whether you want to live a life with security or freedom. It means having the ability to live a life of your own volition, to live your own life as you choose. It does not mean being a slave or a gangbanger or some other type of criminal.
It means to live your life as you make it.
Flappers are defined in a number of ways. They are described as having their hair up, usually blue or blonde, tied back into a bun, and wearing heels. They wear skirts or dresses with heels. They wear hats and scarves. For the first decade of their careers, they were primarily girls, often the daughters of the slaves. Flappers were a growing group of black women, often working on plantations that had no white women to help. Some were members of the Black Panther Party, some of them wanted self-rule for the black community—and all of them wanted the freedom to live their own lives. (This is how the phrase ‘freedom flapper’ came to be.) But their real identity is in their hairstyles and dress: These are images of freedom that were created by and for women as they travelled from slavery to freedom.
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