In the 1860s, a style similar to the Afro was worn by the Circassian beauties, sometimes known as “Moss-haired girls”, a group of women exhibited in sideshow attractions in the United States by P. T. Barnum and others. These women were claimed to be from the Circassian people in the Northern Caucasus region, and were marketed to white audiences captivated by the “exotic East” as pure examples of the Caucasian white race who were kept as sexual slaves in Turkish harems. It has been argued that this portrayal of a white woman as a rescued slave during the American Civil War played on the racial connotations of slavery at the time so that the distinctive hairstyle affiliates the side-show white Circassian with African American identity, and thus:
resonates oddly yet resoundingly with the rest of her identifying significations: her racial purity, her sexual enslavement, her position as colonial subject; her beauty. The Circassian blended elements of white Victorian True Womanhood with traits of the enslaved African American woman in one curiosity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro).