Afro picks

34 of the most beautiful and powerful Afros in history

The Undefeated

Give it to Colin Kaepernick. The man’s not only creating a conversation that exposes a healthy dose of America’s insecurities and frustrations, his Afro, which took center stage before and after the San Francisco 49ers’ preseason victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 1, was beyond impressive. Full blowout kit, a shine courtesy of Duke’s hair grease, you know, the whole nine yards. However, much like his stance toward the national anthem, Kaepernick’s decision to don perhaps black America’s most storied and political hairstyle is far from the first of its kind. The lineage is deep — both in and out of the sports world. Grab your Afro picks and take this ride through history. — Justin Tinsley

The legendary Diana Ross, pictured here in July 1975 in Los Angeles, in legendary stunt mode with perhaps the most perfect Afro in recorded history. Just look at it. I'd be willing to bet it's moisturized with the finest juices and berries Motown could buy. (Harry Langdon/Getty Images)
There are certain people who are forbidden to ever cut their hair. Questlove, the legendary drummer of the legendary Roots crew and great person in general, falls under that umbrella. (Craig Barritt/Getty Images)
Prince, pictured here at the Washington, D.C.'s, Warner Theater in June 2015, always struck me as the type of dude to keep an Afro pick on him at all times. The one with the Black Power fist, too. (Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images)
Do yourself a favor and search “Pam Grier Afro” on Google Images. In the long history of Afros in America, trust and believe no one made it look better than The Original Foxy Brown. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
If this photo of the Jackson Five doesn't make you want to play I Want You Back, Never Can Say Goodbye, Who’s Loving You or ABC, just know you are truly in my prayers. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Before Colin Kaepernick, there stood another Afro-donning lightning rod in the NFL. Randy Gene Moss, flossing the 'fro and full grill, during a 31-17 wild card victory at Lambeau Field over the Green Bay Packers in 2005. Seeing as how we're co-workers now, however, my true feelings about Moss' actions toward the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving 1998 must remain dormant. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Between a grandfather obsessed with materialistic fantasies and women who didn’t want to date him, and a younger brother, Riley, who wanted nothing more than to live the thug life, it's a wonder this century's most fierce activist, Huey P. Freeman of The Boondocks, didn't lose his hair while trying to keep his house in order and change the world.
You might be wondering why Angela Davis looks so ticked off in this photo. Simple. This was taken shortly after she was fired from UCLA as a philosophy professor as a result of her membership with the Communist Party of America. She later became a prominent member of the Black Panthers and landed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. Don’t trip, though. She beat all those charges and currently serves as an educator, writer and all-around dope activist. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Gil Scott Heron was “woke” long before it became cool to throw the term around in tweets and Instagram captions. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Rumor has it a man once disrespected “Mean” Joe Greene’s Afro. Rumor has it that man hasn’t been seen since. That’s not really a rumor, but imagine how stressful it might have been to be Greene’s barber. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
You right OG (original gangster) Bobby Ross made it. That Afro is undeniable. It’s glorious. The man painted bushes, mountains and rivers like nobody’s business.
Thankfully, Blue Ivy wasn’t old enough to read some of the mean things people said about her hair when she was a baby. While her Afro history has been lengthy for someone not even old enough for kindergarten yet, Blue Ivy’s finest Afro moment came earlier this year in her mom Beyonce’s controversial smash single Formation.
Since we’re on the topic of the Knowles family, the ringleader in the Afro division is Blue’s auntie. Solange has long been committed to that Afro life. Salute, Queen. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Michael Kors)
Ah, c’mon, man. This is Afro royalty (I mean, seriously, just look at that thing). Black history royalty. Hella dope nickname royalty. Mr. Steal Yo Mama and Grandma royalty. This is Julius Erving - Dr. J - we’re talking about here. Of course The Doctor is in the club. He helped create it. (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
Not to be confused with the Buffalo Bills great quarterback Jim Kelly. But this Kelly, seen here on the set of 1973’s Enter The Dragon, earns the prestigious honor of one of the greatest Afros because, well, c’mon. He also starred in Black Belt Jones, Black Samurai and Three The Hard Way. Kelly was also baseball legend Willie Mays’ second cousin and appeared alongside basketball great LeBron James in a very underrated 2004 Nike ad. An all-around pretty interesting dude, if we’re being honest. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
If you have to ask who these people are, I humbly request you turn your black card in, for you are now on a probationary period and the committee will decide your fate in a hearing during the historically black college homecoming season. Anyway, here we have the legendary cast of Good Times (R.I.P. James Evans). Count 'em up. That’s one ... two ... three ... four Afros in one picture. If that’s not peak blackness, then the criteria needs to be re-evaluated. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
Aretha Franklin wore her do during the Afro explosion of the ’70s. So combine that with Respect, and Big Mama ’Retha wasn’t out here playing with y’all.
Before the grown man salt-and-pepper low cut he has now (I can only hope to mimic that my 50s), my man, President Barack Obama - pictured on Feb. 5, 1990, after being named president of The Harvard Law Review – was no stranger to the 'fro. A mini-'fro, but an Afro nonetheless. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
The Rev. Jesse “Keep Hope Alive” Jackson and I haven’t seen eye to eye all the time. He went to North Carolina A&T. I went to Hampton. He’s an Omega. I made the right decision and went Alpha. But I’ve gotta give respect to ol’ Jesse, seen here on his march for jobs around the White House in 1975. The mustache/Afro combo in this picture would have been my vibe had I been around in the ’70s. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
Hendrix — Jimi, not Future — made the Afro a definitive statement in rock. It wasn’t supposed to fit. But it did. (Photo by Mueller-Schneck/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Want to feel old for a second? This photo was taken March 7, 2001. There’s a generation of basketball fans, better yet, diehard Kobe fans, who has no memory of Afro-Kobe. (Photo by Vince Compagnone/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Don King, the most famous (or infamous, depending how you want to look at it) boxing promoter, always had a legendary Afro. That much can’t be disputed. It looked like a cross between being electrocuted and those vintage troll dolls.
To be quite honest, I don’t know if Samuel L. Jackson’s super moist Afro was real or fake. It doesn’t much matter. Just know Pulp Fiction wouldn’t be nearly the film it has grown to become if he was rocking any other hairstyle.
How Minnie Riperton hit that high note in 1975’s Loving You is still insane. R.I.P. to a legend. (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)
There was never a doubt The Artist Formerly Known As Lew Alcindor aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar aka perhaps the greatest of all time (GOAT) (if you’re in a debating mood) was down for the cause. So it made sense the architect behind The Sky Hook rocked the 'fro during the height of his playing days. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Sly Stone of Sly and the Family Stone is no longer rocking the 'fro full time. Sobering, I know. But best believe in his heyday, Sly’s Afro/sideburn combination competed with the absolute best of them. (Photo by Jay Dickman/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
You never knew what you were going to get from Ben Wallace. Well, you knew you’d get dominant defense, but not a lot of offense. But the Virginia Union University alum’s hairstyles were pretty unpredictable. Some games he wore braids. Some he donned this rather immaculate Afro. Not for nothing, too, Big Ben was definitely rocking the 'fro the night of the “Malice At The Palace.” (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
You have your Afro OGs (original gangsters). Then you have the original player himself, Frederick Douglass.
Adina Howard’s Afro doesn’t get the credit it deserves. But the Freak Like Me singer is worthy of inclusion. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
Admittedly, this might cause the most debate. Not for Stokely Carmichael’s role as an activist. That’s well beyond solidified. But it's really for the validity of his 'fro. Is it one or is it simply just a brother in need of a haircut?
At the peak of his powers, there weren't many men cooler than Don Cornelius – regardless of race – with a more signature voice than the creator of Soul Train, a gift so invaluable to black culture it’s impossible to imagine life without it. The Afro wasn’t too shabby either. (Photo by John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images)
Here’s where we won’t argue. Clarence Williams III in 1995's Tales From The Hood scared the hell out of me. And at 30 years old, it somewhat still does. But I’m willing to give credit where it’s due. This is a quality Afro from the man who played Lincoln “Linc” Hayes in season 1, episode 23 of Keep the Faith, Baby. Williams obviously picked this out before walking on set. And I’m not mad. Not mad at all. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
The full Afro with the sideburns leading to the handlebar mustache? Oscar Gamble, who played for the Philadelphia Phillies between 1970 and 1972, is a first ballot Afro Hall of Famer. (Photo by Louis Requena/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
On the week he is set to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, we pay homage to Allen Iverson, the man known throughout the Hampton Roads area of Virginia simply as “Bubba Chuck.” Long live the Soul On Ice SLAM cover.