Celebrating Black History: “It’s more than just hair,” local barber says

Published: Feb. 13, 2020 at 9:32 PM CST
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Barbershops have had a prominent role in the black community for years.

It’s been a safe haven for black men to congregate, play games and has even served as a meeting spot for civil rights activists.

At Starz Barber and Beauty of Green Bay, there’s plenty of buzz.

Owner Chris Kimbrough said his barbershop is about more than just hair. It’s a place where customers can come in for a cut and leave with a sense of confidence.

"Barbers are really the pillar of the community, because one thing about being a barber we know just about everything that's going on in town,” Kimbrough said.

Since 2016, Chris and his employees have been a listening ear for anyone who walks in.

It’s a safe haven that black barbershops are known for.

"We know who's going through what, and you catch a lot of times where clients come in and they tell us everything that's going on,” said Kimbrough.

The beginnings of black barbershops are connected to slavery.

It was a needed trait for slaves serving as valets to masters.

Once freed, barbering was a path to entrepreneurship for black men.

"Things that kept us down now we're kind of overtaking those things and making it our own,” said Kimbrough.

That same sentiment made its way to Green Bay in the 1800's.

An archive of an old census, provided by the Brown County Library, shows three local barbers in 1870 and a hairdresser in 1877.

The hairdresser, J.H. Cleggett, was a well-respected man who sold hairpieces in Green Bay for about 10 years.

He moved to Chicago because his business could make more money there.

Chris said if it wasn't for those individuals paving the way, he wouldn't be in Green Bay doing what he loves.

"One thing about this shop that makes this one special, if you look around we have different barbers of different races and different backgrounds,” said Kimbrough. “We’re all able to come together as one."

He's made it his duty to have a barbershop that's inclusive to all ages and races.

“This being Black History Month, you think about Martin Luther King,” said Kimbrough. “You look at his dream that he had, we all being able to come together as one, this is one of the examples of that.”