"Blacks coped with job discrimination partly by setting up their own businesses. In doing so, they developed their own status hierarchy, with self-employed service businesses at the top of the ladder... Barbering was [one of] their most prestigious occupation[s], and community leaders often were barbers who operated downtown barbershops that catered to the city's elite."
-L.A. Glasco

Barber Shops

Birmingham Area
Barber Shops

The 20th Century Barber Shop, Bessemer, Alabama

The current Mayor of Bessmer, Mr. Quitman Mitchell, was formerly a barber himself and the owner of this shop.

Just Outside the 20th Century Barbershop

Inside the 20th Century Barber Shop
Barbershops have, in the past, typically served a social function as well as a practical one. Men would often gather in a barber shop throughout the day to dicuss the town's latest news. Discussions in barbershops have ranged from rising prices, to the latest love exploits of any given man, to the latest episode of The Jerry Springer Show, which the men are watching and discussing in the photo above. This kind of social atmosphere has begun to taper off, however, as younger generations find different places to congregate.

Jesse Stuckey, giving James a haircut at the 20th Century Barber Shop

Pittsburgh Area
Barber Shops

Sean and Nate's Barber Shop, Hill District, Pittsburgh

Mikell's Barber Shop, McKeesport, Pennsylvania
Mr. Mikell's latest Lincoln is seen in front of the shop
(He purchases a new one every two years)

James' Haircut at Mikell's, with Mr. Mikell

Mr. Mikell maintains the ideology that "the customer is always right." He will rarely argue with something a customer says during a haircut. According to this philosophy, the job of a barber is somewhat akin to that of a bartender; he listens and gives out advice when appropriate.

Hamm's Barber Shop, Hill District, Pittsburgh

The most successful barbershop owners were those who found other, more "creative" ways to make money. In order to survive, barbers often needed a higher income than what they earned from cutting hair. Most often, barbershops would have a "back room," where members of the community could come to gamble. There were usually several gambling options open to those interested, the most common of which being playing "the numbers" or poker. The owner of the shop would regulate the gambling, thus ensuring himself a portion of the gains. When we visited Mikell's, the men were playing poker.

The doorway to the "back room" at Mikell's

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