27 Jan /15

Salt and pepper

The term salt and pepper, like ivory and ebony, refers to things that are composed of two colours – normally white (salt) and black (pepper), and can also be used for light and dark shades.

And while ebony and ivory was popularised in 1982 by a duet song of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, which got its title and inspiration from the case of two old women (one white and one black) playing piano together, who after suffering a stroke became partially disabled yet continued playing the white and black keys together, one hand each; the salt and pepper term had a way less glossy story even if coined 100 years ago.

In the January 9, 1915 issue of the American magazine Saturday Evening Post, a main character of a magazine’s serial was pictured as “running her hand over her smooth salt-and-pepper hair”.

Even if the straight image a salt and pepper hair colour strikes is a Cruella de Vil or Dalmatian-like (distinguishably defined areas of white and black hair), the salt and paper goes for any hair colour of at least two different colours, one of which is white – bad or good news, every greying hair can go for salt and pepper.

The salt and pepper term got into the spotlight in the late 50s, for a meaning far away from hair, but tightly linked to colour – the so known coloured schools. It was the Dallas plan of 1958 to begin a school programme which to support racial integration. Under the program students would had been given the voluntary preference to decide whether to attend segregated or mixed races schools and classes. The plan resulted in opinion clashes and court hearings and became known as the salt and pepper plan. Houston followed shortly, as Wall Street Journal reports in its August 12, 1959 issue: “Houston is considering the ‘salt and pepper’ plan which has been widely suggested but not yet used. It calls for initial integration in schools where there is least objection from parents and expansion into other areas later.” An year later, Houston had its first Afro-American pupils in white schools.