Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

February 6, 1982

On February 6, 1982, the Cleveland Call and Post featured an advertisement for Black’s Pride Hair Care Center, a small business owned by Wilbert Black who called himself the (Jheri) “Kurl King.” Not being from Cleveland I had never heard of Wilbert Black or Black’s Pride, but there is a surprising amount of information available about Black and his hair care business in the Call and Post. Wilbert Black, for example, graduated from Erma Lee Barber College in 1966 and opened Black’s Pride a few years later at 1544 Hayden Avenue in East Cleveland. In 1971, Black and other Hayden area merchants expressed concern with the lack of off-street parking near their businesses and frustration with the number of parking tickets they and their customers received as a result. In 1973, the East Cleveland Urban Renewal project pushed Black’s Pride to a new location a half-mile away at 14248 Euclid Ave. Odessa Black, Wilbert's wife, opened a beauty salon down the street. The Call and Post described the move as a positive relocation to a “bigger, better and brighter shop” that was “ultra-modern.” The paper also noted, “Besides running the barber shop Black is also active in community involvement. He is treasurer of the Hayden Avenue Development Association for the rebuilding of the Hayden Area, and Chairman of Relocation for the Project Area Committee.” Throughout the 1980s, Black ran advertisements in the Call and Post that trace the rise and decline of the Jheri Curl, a permed hairstyle, over the course of the decade: November 21, 1981: Jeri-Kurl Special; June, 6, 1982: Bouci√©-Kurl, “The French Way”; March 22, 1984: “A Professional Curl At a Basement Curl Price”; January 17, 1985: Nostalgic Cotton Club Waves; January 8, 1987: Leisure Curl; July 14, 1988: Instant Weave Body Curl. The final advertisement, a March 23, 1989 ad for “European Body Wrap” suggests that Black was interested in following whatever salon trends might prove most lucrative.

Shortly after Wilbert Black died of cancer in 2005, U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones described what he meant to her and many other customers of Black’s Pride:

Mr. Black not only was my hairstylist, he was my friend. He was never too busy for me. He always made himself available, offering constructive criticism and encouraging words. He was my political ally…He loved the city of East Cleveland. From Euclid Avenue to Hayden Road to Noble Road, he was involved in every political campaign for candidates and issues. He worked the polls and did whatever it took to ensure that the people of East Cleveland exercised their right to vote.
He was known as “The Curl King,” in all of his regalia—tuxedos, three-piece suits, Gator shoes and his hair always in place. He kept an immaculate salon with tasty treats like coffee, cookies, wine, cheese and champagne.
He and Odessa were a model of success in marriage, friendship, business and parenting. Nothing was more fun than to hear them go back and forth with each other. They were a couple who loved each other, their profession and their children and grandchildren. His sons Darryl and Petey could not have had a better role model. He set the example for his sons and shared his knowledge with them.
When Mr. Black found out he had cancer he got ready to fight. He handled his illness with such dignity. He kept going and going. I recall I tried to cancel my last appointment but he would not let me. He insisted that he would do my hair. He took his time and I refused to rush him. I wanted more than anything to just say “Rest, Mr. Black,” but he would not hear it. He was going to finish no matter what. Mr. Black, I am sure you are in heaven with the rest of your family, probably doing hair in your salon. I can imagine the immaculate decorations, the flowers, the seating, the stations, the cheerful greeting, and the broad smile. Rest well, my friend, my ally, my hero extraordinaire.

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