In Africa, historically braids could be used as a way to express religion, familiarity, status, age and ethnic composition among other attributes.

When the slaves arrived in America, they initially faced a loss of identity since when they made the crossing of the «Middle Passage» (as they called the transfer from Africa to America), their heads were often shaved for sanitary reasons. But despite the painful journey, the Ancient patterns of hair braiding were still on their minds. This knowledge was used by women who, parallel to the work of emancipation, making braids, played a fundamental role in the escapist routes of the haciendas: in their braided heads they wove the maps that later served as a guide on their long and tortuous path to freedom.

Since slaves were rarely given the privilege of writing or even if they had it, these kinds of messages or maps in the wrong hands could create a lot of trouble for the people concerned, braiding was the perfect way to do it.

As we can see, Africans saw braids not only as a way of being connected to their heritage, but also as a tool to assert their independence.