UPDATE—July 27, 2022: To date, the Crown Act—or legislation inspired by it—has been signed in 18 states. Massachusetts is the most recent to join the list, after Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill into law on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, joining Maine and Tennessee as the newest states to adopt the bill which bans discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill at the federal level, but it has not been approved yet by the Senate.
UPDATE—September 22, 2020: As the fight against hair discrimination rages on, this week marked some promising news for the Crown Act, a vital piece of legislation created by the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Coalition, that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone at work or school over the way they wear their hair.
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While up until this point the Crown Act has only been passed at the state level in only seven states, it was announced Monday that the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill at the federal level—meaning, that if approved by Senate and the president, its protections would automatically apply to all 50 states.
Rep. Ilhan Omar announced the news on Twitter, saying: “For far too long, Black women have been penalized for simply existing as themselves—that ends today. The House just passed the CROWN Act to end hair discrimination. This passage is long overdue, but an important step forward to combat racial discrimination.”
All eyes are on the Senate, but for now, we’re one step closer to banning hair discrimination nationwide. For more on why this law is so essential, read our September cover story, featuring six women who are passionately advocating the passage of the Crown Act.
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ORIGINAL STORY—July 3, 2020: One year after the Crown Act was passed in California, Black women can still be fired in a majority of states over the way they wear their hair.
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Yes, in 2020, Black women who go into work with their hair worn just as it grows from their head, or in protective styles like braids, locs, and knots, can still lose their jobs or be sent home from school. That’s what the Crown Act, a vital piece of legislation created by the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Coalition, is fighting against—and it’s starting to make headway.
According to Dove’s CROWN Research Study, conducted to determine how societal norms and corporate grooming policies unfairly affect Black women in the workplace, Black women were 50% more likely to report being sent home or know of a Black woman who was sent home from the workplace because of their hair.
“Eighty percent of women reported that they’ve changed their hair from its natural state to fit in a corporate environment,” Esi Eggleston Bracey, executive vice president and COO of beauty and personal care at Unilever (Dove’s parent company), as well as one of the founding members of the coalition, told Glamour in 2019. “That’s four out of five black women in the study. I knew it would be an issue, but to see how broadscale and pervasive it was [was surprising].”
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For too many years, Black women have been told their hair was “unkempt,” “unprofessional,” and “distracting”—meanwhile the Kardashians and many white women have appropriated those same styles in the name of fashion.
However, on July 3, 2019, California became the first state to sign the Crown Act into law, prohibiting discrimination against natural hair and protective styles in schools and workplaces. On top of that, the Crown Coalition is now declaring July 3 as National Crown Day—also known as Black Hair Independence Day—which will be a day of solidarity for the human rights of Black men, women, and children to wear their hair boldly and proudly without fear.
Until then, here’s every state that has passed the Crown Act, or legislation inspired by it, so far.
On July 3, 2019, the governor signed the Crown Act into law after the California state assembly unanimously passed bill SB 188 (its official title), put forward by Democratic state senator Holly J. Mitchell. You can watch Mitchell speak to her colleagues in the video, above.
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“My vision for the bill is twofold,” Mitchell told Glamour at the time. “First, by introducing the bill, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to educate my colleagues about the unique experience and opportunities of having Black hair. I didn’t want them to see it as a negative. Because of my natural hair texture, I have the unique opportunity to wear these amazing natural hairstyles.”
Then came dismantling myths of “professional hair” and our society’s ideas about what’s acceptable. “Our knowledge and ideas of what’s ‘appropriate,’ what’s ‘professional,’ what’s ‘beautiful,’ are based on a very Eurocentric standard,” she continued. “This bill and my mere presence in presenting the bill was going to challenge that.”
Just 12 days later, New York became the second state to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees because of the way they wear their hair. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Assembly Bill 07797 to “prohibit race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles” as well as bolster previous efforts to curb discrimination in the state.
The Crown Act was signed and went into effect immediately in New Jersey on December 19, 2019—one year after the state made national news when high school wrestler Andrew Johnson was forced to cut his dreadlocks before a match, according to the Washington Post.
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The Crown Act was passed in Maryland on February 6, 2020, also protecting against discrimination from taxi services, cable services, and other groups, according to WUSA9.
On March 4, 2020, Virginia became the first Southern state to officially ban hair discrimination by adopting the Crown Act; however, the legislation did not go into effect until July 1, 2020.
“It’s pretty simple—if we send children home from school because their hair looks a certain way, or otherwise ban certain hairstyles associated with a particular race—that is discrimination,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement, per CNN. “This is not only unacceptable and wrong; it is not what we stand for in Virginia.”
In early March 2020, Colorado became the next state to enact the protective legislature after the governor signed House Bill 1048 at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, “a studio and performing arts school based in African American traditions,” according to the Denver Post.
“When someone chooses to celebrate their natural hair, we should join them in that celebration and not discriminate against them,” said Representative Leslie Herod, a sponsor of the bill.
A few weeks later, Washington joined the six other states in passing a bill to prevent hair discrimination. “Black women should not be barred from success because of the way we wear our hair,” said the sponsor of the bill, Representative Melanie Morgan, per the Suburban Times. “The way we choose to style our hair is culturally meaningful, and it has no impact on our abilities to show up professionally, hygienically, and naturally at work and school. We are sending a message to our children, ‘You are beautiful just the way you are.’”
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In March 2021, Governor Ned Lamont announced that he had signed legislation that expanded civil rights protections by prohibiting hair discrimination. “Racial discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, and we must strive to eradicate all forms, including those instances which are not overt,” Governor Lamont said. “For example, when a person of color has a job interview or simply goes to work, they should never be judged based on anything other than skills, work product, commitment, dedication, and work ethic. This measure is critical to helping build a more equitable society.”
Delaware became the ninth state to end race-based hair discrimination in April 2021. "I was proud to sponsor Delaware's CROWN Act and I join thousands of Delawareans in celebrating this important new law," stated Sen. Darius Brown at the time. "This statute is part and parcel to establishing racial equity, fairness in employment, and ending race-based discrimination. It makes clear that traits historically associated with race—specifically hair texture and styles—are included in our definition of race and cannot be used to skirt long-standing anti-discrimination statutes. Hair should never define a person, their capability, or their place on this Earth and I am proud to have played a part in building a better, fairer future for all Delawareans."
That same month, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law measures that prohibited discrimination or disparate treatment of students based on their hair style or cultural or religious headdress. “Workplace biases and corporate grooming policies unfairly impact Black women and people of color, not only is this a discrimination issue but an equity issue as it has a social and economic cost,” said Sen. Pope. “SB80 is the most inclusive legislation in the country, inspired by the ‘Crown Act’ the goal is to end discrimination at our public schools, charter schools and workplaces. We must have protections in place that respect all New Mexicans.”
Governor Steve Sisolak signed the Crown Act into law in June 2021, making Nevada the 12th state to join the fight against hair discrimination. “It was important to pass statutory protections against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools," said Sen. Dina Neal, who pushed for the Crown Act along with Sen. Dallas Harris. “Hair is a part of identity and race. The importance of this bill for generations to come will be a feeling of safety in wearing natural hair. A student Naika Belizaire testified at the Senate hearing that she was sent to detention for wearing her natural hair. We want to protect students in schools and the workplace from this kind of discriminatory activity.”
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed the bill into law in May 2021. Senator Terrell McKinney said the passing of LB451 “opens doors for more legislation addressing issues with race and discrimination."
On June 11, 2021, the Crown Act was signed by Governor Kate Brown. “What strikes me is that those creating problems for other people regarding their hairstyles are basically stuck in middle school or high school, believing that they must criticize people based on how they wear their hair,” said state Sen. Lew Frederick, who helped bring the bill to the Senate floor. “Unfortunately that adolescent approach in many cases is not limited to name calling or teasing.”
Later that summer, in August 2021, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed Senate Bill 817, which prohibits schools from issuing policies on hairstyles historically associated with race or ethnicity, into law. "Nobody should be made to feel ‘less than' for how they express themselves—so in Illinois, we're making it so school uniform and dress code policies in Illinois cannot prohibit or restrict hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture," said Pritzker. "Today, we are adding to the progress we've already made by allowing students of color to embrace the power of their heritage rather than compromise their identity. This is yet another way Illinois is making powerful strides in transforming the culture of our schools."
In April 2022, Maine Governor Janet Mills signed the Crown Act into law. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Mattie Daughtry.
Tennessee became the first state in the southwest region of the U.S. to pass the Crown Act, which was signed into law by Governor Bill Lee on May 27, 2022. It was sponsored by Sen. Raumesh Akbari and originally proposed in 2021.
On July 26, 2022, Massachusetts became the 18th state to ban workplace and school discrimination for natural and protective hairstyles after Governor Charlie Baker signed the Crown Act into law. Baker was joined by sister Deanna and Mya Cook, who were targeted by discrimination in 2017 at a Massachusetts charter school, where they were banned from wearing their hair in box braids.
For more information on the Crown Act, including which states have introduced the bill and are awaiting a vote, check out the official website. To sign the petition to encourage your lawmakers to support the bill, click here.