215. Ladies' Sunday Best Hats

Heavenly Hats Hoping to Catch God’s Eye

Imagine yourself in a smart hat. Does it tell others something about you? Do you walk a little taller in a hat? Those on display have been worn to church, where there is a long tradition among Black women of wearing colorful and often extravagant hats. This is not merely fashionable or artistic; the tradition has religious and historical significance. It is connected to a form of resistance. Slave owners often shaved Black women’s heads as a way to strip them of their individuality and show dominance. In response, Black women used headdresses to protect and distinguish themselves, and on Sundays, might wear bright dresses and straw hats decorated with fresh flowers, ribbons, or feathers.

“These heaven-reaching hats were designed to ‘catch God’s eye’ in hopes He would hear their prayers. Culturally, church hats became a strong symbol of the ability to triumph over hardships.”

Kori E. Miller, M.O.M.L.

Evansville African American Museum

Executive Director