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.
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.’”
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 Senator 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 Senator Harold 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 Senator Dina Neal, who pushed for the Crown Act along with Senator 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 Senator 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 J.B. 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 Senator Mattie Daughtry.
Tennessee became the first state in the midsouth 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 Senator 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 sisters 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.