For Black people, hair isn't "just hair." Our hair is our crown, and the celebration of it as such is deeply woven into our ancestral history. But, often, the coils, locs, and braids we proudly wear are deemed "unkempt" and "unprofessional" for public spaces. Black hair has been unjustly policed everywhere, from offices to classrooms, for decades. In an effort to eliminate hair discrimination, many cities and states have begun passing legislation that addresses this issue.
In June 2019, California made headlines for becoming the first state to outlaw the racial discrimination of individuals based on their natural hairstyles. The bill, SB 188, passed the state Senate in April and passed in a unanimous vote by California’s state assembly on June 27, 2019. The law, also known as the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair), states, "In a society in which hair has historically been one of many determining factors of a person’s race, and whether they were a second class citizen, hair today remains a proxy for race. Therefore, hair discrimination targeting hairstyles associated with race is racial discrimination."
Vernon François, a celebrity hairstylist who routinely works with celebrities including Lupita Nyong'o and Serena Williams, has long been an outspoken advocate for celebrating the beauty of textured hair. When the law passed in 2019, he told us, "This is a positive step in the right direction, but we should not become complacent with this act. There is a lot that needs to be done." Rather than pat ourselves on the back, François explains that we all still need to take a hard look at the nuances around discrimination. "We need to enlighten those who may not be familiar with how liberating it is to be free of someone else's ideas on how they should be wearing their hair," he says.
The CROWN Act also addresses the United States’ history of anti-Black racism and the shortcomings of the previous anti-discrimination legislature. “The history of our nation is riddled with laws and societal norms that equated "Blackness," and the associated physical traits, for example, dark skin, kinky and curly hair to a badge of inferiority, sometimes subject to separate and unequal treatment," the bill reads.
The measure notes that while Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on race, it only protected against discrimination against afros. The praise-worthy impact of California’s ban is that it will protect all presentations of natural hair—including braids, twists, locs, and knots—from discrimination in the workplace and K-12 public schools. Since California's 2019 ruling, six more states have passed The CROWN Act. Ahead, we break down the current status of The CROWN Act in all 50 states and how you can help the CROWN Coalition end hair discrimination in workplaces and schools. We'll frequently be updating this guide as The CROWN Act legislation progresses in each state.
Where Does Your State Stand With The Crown Act?
The Crown Act is Law
- New York
- New Jersey
The Crown Act Has Been Filed of Pre-Filed
- New Mexico (*The CROWN Act is law in Albuquerque)
- South Dakota,
- Missouri (*The CROWN Act is law in Kansas City)
- Kentucky (*The CROWN Act is law in Covington)
- Georgia (*The CROWN Act is law in Clayton County and Stockbridge)
- South Carolina
- Florida (*The CROWN Act is law in Broward County)
- New Hampshire
The Crown Act Has Not Been Filed or Passed
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
- Ohio (*The CROWN Act is law in Newburgh Heights, Akron, Columbus, and Cincinnati)
- Wisconsin (*The CROWN Act is law in Dane County)
- Louisiana (*The CROWN Act is law in New Orleans)
- North Carolina (*The CROWN Act is law in Greensboro)
How You Can Help
There are a few ways you can help end hair discrimination in the workplace and public schools:
- Join The CROWN Coalition: The CROWN Coalition consists of advocacy and non-governmental organizations that seek to end hair bias and discrimination in the United States. If your organization is interested in joining the coalition, you can find more information on The CROWN Act's website.
- Sign a petition: The CROWN Coalition has created a petition to help end hair discrimination in the workplace and schools. The campaign currently has nearly 250K signatures and its goal is to reach 500,000. You can sign here.
- Introduce The CROWN Act To Your State: If you want to introduce The CROWN Act to your state legislators, visit their website for examples on how to draft your legislative language. You can also contact a member of The CROWN Act team for more information on how they can support your efforts to bring the legislation to your state.