Cutting Along the Color Line by Quincy T. Mills ’93

Cutting-along-the-Color-LineClass of 1993 graduate Quincy Mills has had a busy life since he received his diploma from Leo High School.  He followed Leo by earning his B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, his M.B.A. from DePaul, and an  M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.  He currently occupies himself teaching  African American history at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY where he has found the time to write a well received book on the history of black barber shops in America.  Interest in his book has lead him to appear on NewOne Now with Roland Martin on TV ONE, Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal on NPR, Roundtable with Joe Donahue on Northeast Public Radio, and the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU.

Quincy Mills’ book, Cutting Along the Color Line chronicles the cultural history of black barber shops as businesses and civic institutions. Through several generations of barbers, Mills examines the transition from slavery to freedom in the nineteenth century, the early twentieth-century expansion of black consumerism, and the challenges of professionalization, licensing laws, and competition from white barbers. He finds that the profession played a significant though complicated role in twentieth-century racial politics: while the services of shaving and grooming were instrumental in the creation of socially acceptable black masculinity, barbering permitted the financial independence to maintain public spaces that fostered civil rights politics. This sweeping, engaging history of an iconic cultural establishment shows that black entrepreneurship was intimately linked to the struggle for equality.


“Quincy T. Mills’s important book provides fascinating insight into the history of African American barbers. He vividly captures their culture, traditions, and perseverance to succeed against tremendous odds. A brilliant overview of this prestigious tradition.”—Zariff, barber to President Barack Obama


Cutting Along the Color Line is a singular achievement. Quincy Mills has taken a familiar institution, the neighborhood barbershop, and revealed an unknown history that utterly transforms our understanding of what we thought it was. Unpacking the economic, social, cultural, and political history of black barbering from slavery to the present contributes new insights to African American studies, American history, and black masculinities. Cutting Along the Color Line will have a permanent place on my syllabus.”—Melissa Harris-Perry, Professor of Political Science at Tulane University and host of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry


To purchase the book on Amazon, click here.

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