In 1957, George E. Johnson launched the Chicago-based Johnson Products Company, which would become the first African-American business listed on the New York Stock Exchange (then known as the American Stock Exchange). Initially, the Johnson haircare line focused on relaxers for African-American consumers. Then, with the early 1970s came the popularity of the natural Afro hairstyle, and Johnson jumped on the trend with Afro Sheen, whose sponsorship of the TV show “Soul Train” propelled its popularity. Once the 1980s rolled around, Jheri Curl supplanted the Afro, but not before Afro Sheen put out a slew of natural hair-proud television and print ads like the one above that encouraged black people to embrace the “poetry” that is the Afro.
The copy reads: “Kama mama, kama binti is poetry in Swahili. And your little girl’s natural is proud poetry in velvety rings and curls. Such beauty deserves the same loving care as your own crowning glory. Naturally, we mean “Afro Sheen” concentrated shampoo and Afro Sheen conditioner & hair dress. The best for the both of you.”
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