Hair Love: Black Children in Animation

Christina Knight | February 11, 2020

Hair Love (2019) is the Oscar winner for Best Animated Short Film. It tells the heartwarming story of an African American father learning to do his daughter Zuri’s hair for the first time. Watch the Academy Award-winning animation here.

The star talent represented in the cartoon includes Issa Rae (Insecure), the voice of Zuri’s mother. The writer and director Matthew A. Cherry is a former NFL football player who retired in 2007 to launch his film career.

He and producer Karen Rupert Toliver accepted the Academy Award at the televised ceremony on February 9, 2020.

Cherry’s prepared speech helped draw awareness to the The Crown Act announced and co-sponsored by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey to a wide audience.

Hair Love was born out of wanting to see more representation in animation but also wanting to normalize black hair. We have a real chance here to help make hair discrimination illegal through The Crown Act and get it passed as law in all 50 states.”

The Crown Act bill would ban discrimination and censure of hair textures and hairstyles that are commonly associated with a particular race or national origin.

Cherry elaborated on representing black children in animation in comments to the blog Because of Them We Can:

“Media is impressionable and when little kids see shows, movies and magazines and don’t see people who look like them in a heroic place or complex place or don’t see themselves at all, it makes them seem abnormal or an exception to the rule. We’re trying to make them feel normal and have a little Black girl with maybe kinky hair feel like she’s represented.”

To learn more about children’s animated shows you can watch on television or stream any time, see our PBS Kids page for parents.