A Father Braiding Daughter's Hair A Labor Of Love

Originally from Ethiopia , Miriam Tigist Green, 4, was adopted by Emory professor Clifton Green and his wife in 2005. This is her hair unbraided, before her father applies his weekly loving touch. His care and attention to detail show mastery of a task few white men ever contemplate. Dad Clifton and mom Jennifer initially were uncertain what to do with Miriam's hair after bringing her home. They considered just letting it go, as a sign of freedom. They wanted others to accept her, regardless of her looks.

The couple believed that Miriam's hair was a strong link to her African roots, so they ultimately chose to neaten it the way they saw in many African-American families. Here, Brother Nathaniel tries to get in on the braiding action.

Clifton Green researched the best products to keep Miriam's hair from drying and breaking. He noticed and copied styles he saw on other kids. With practice, he became skilled. "I had learned to braid rope necklaces in junior high," he says. "But this is hair, not string."

At one point, Clifton Green stopped trying new styles on Miriam before church, because haste led to bad hairdos. "We wanted her to know her hair isn't a burden, but something really wonderful, something beautiful to be celebrated," her mother says.

In learning how to take care of Miriam's hair, the Greens learned that what was at stake was far more than hygiene or looks. Her hair was a litmus test of their parenting. Here, half an hour into the braiding process, Miriam lets out a yawn

"By and large, most whites are oblivious to the cultural minefield young black girls are born into, just by virtue of having hair that doesn't bounce and behave," one journalist wrote last year.

This is the drawer in the Greens' living room that holds all the tools Dad uses to care for Miriam's hair.

Miriam had short, patchy hair when Green snapped this photo of her in an Ethiopian orphanage in March 2005.

Hair like Miriam's takes a lot of time and the process of caring for it is also a way for father and daughter to bond. When Clifton Green was little, his own father "made me feel like I had hung the moon," he says. That's what Green has always wanted to give his kids.

"It's a little gift he gives her, the little joy of feeling nice and getting good vibes from other people," Green's wife, Jennifer, says.