The natural hair discrimination laws for people of color have been spreading throughout the world since the beginning of the 16th century Trans-Atlantic slave route. In the United States, natural hair has been deemed as unprofessional, untamed, dreadful, or in need of being “relaxed.” The Tignon Act of the late 18th century was enacted by the Spanish Governor of Louisiana Esteban Rodríguez Miró, requiring women of color, and especially creole women, to wear a tignon headscarf to cover their hair. Many considered the elaborate hairstyles to be a threat to the status quo, bringing excessive attention to the women, and hence the law was meant to police their hair and ensure that it was covered up.
Looking back at social movements, such as the Black Power Movement during the 1960s and 1970s, where men and women of color were often seen wearing their hair in its natural state, hair was viewed as a symbol of power. Within the last decade, the rise of the natural hair movement has attained so much attention that laws have begun to be passed around the country to stop discrimination based on natural hair.
The C.R.O.W.N. (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act, was created in 2019 through a collaboration between Dove personal care brand and the CROWN Coalition to protect people from discrimination based on race-specific hairstyles. This includes all hair textures and protective styles which include styles such as braids, locs, afros, and twists within workplace and in public school settings. According to Dove, “California was the first state to sign the C.R.O.W.N. Act into law on July 3, 2019. With support from the CROWN Coalition, the bill is now law in 6 other states (CO, MD, NY, NJ, VA, WA).”
The C.R.O.W.N. Act Coalition carries on the constant pursuit to support legislative efforts that aim to end hair discrimination throughout the United States. Today, the C.R.O.W.N. Act has surpassed over 189,000 petition signatures. To continue to see growth within the diffusion of natural hair laws, it is essential for us to understand the history of natural hair within the Black community, in order to continue to see growth and diversity within both school and workplace settings.