Black Gen Z: Barbershops:  The Black Man’s Underground Rail Road

By Nova Pierce

“As a young Black man, you can get exposed to views and opinions that will teach you more about your own identity, as well as the world around you. And you can see how the Black men around you present themselves to the public and how they take pride in themselves.” – Bougere, a mentor and activist for Black youth (Phillips, 2022)

Barbershops may be one of the Black community’s most well-kept secret troves of culture. This location is more than a simple building. It is a place of fellowship and kinship and is much more rooted in our history than the average citizen knows. After our forceful relocation and during our enslavement our hair was often forcibly removed by our enslavers (Phillips, 2022). Some liked to use it as stuffing for their furniture, others merely thought it was in the way, and others sought to strip us of anything that connected us to the mainland. So it is no wonder that when we regained our freedom we sought to rediscover our connection with our hair. Alonzo Herndon, one of America’s first Black millionaires, is an exhibit of this dream. 

Born a slave, Alanzo was freed at the age of seven due to the Emancipation Proclamation. He worked diligently as a field hand alongside his family for a few years. Seeing no progress in the development of his life, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and started to be a barber (Rising). This decision led to the building of his fortune as he went on to develop one of the most magnificent barbershops in Atlanta. It was here that he began to service the upper White echelon. After careful investments, his money piled up to the point of him being able to maintain 100 properties and three successful barbershops (Rising).

Great wealth both fiscal and spiritual can be felt within this one location. As it can be a place of great healing within the Black community as it is a well-known rule that whatever is said at the barbershop, stays in the barbershop. Grieving, parental advice, herbal remedies, and much more information are traded within these walls. During times of great strife, these buildings harbored the hearts of our Black men and provided a recharge for their souls as they discussed the harsh realities of the world (Gaines, 2020). It is not just their minds that receive recuperation here, but also their bodies as they receive health advice from their peers and barbers who sometimes double as Health Advocates so that they can further serve their community (Barbershops Bring Health Services to Men ( Described as “the valve that leads to the heart of many black communities,” barbershops will continue to be a pillar in the Black community (Gaines, 2020) and may prove to be a useful vehicle for reaching a population that the public often sees as “hard to reach”. 

Self-defined financial enthusiast, traveler, and lover of the written arts, Nova Pierce is an MSW student with a BA in psychology; with over three years of working experience in mental healthcare. She’s enamored with topics on spirituality, social justice, and the overall human experience. You can contact her at