New Louisiana law protects Black girls, women from natural hairstyle discrimination

Greg Hilburn
Lafayette Daily Advertiser
Members of the audience at the 2018  Little Miss And Miss Teen Natural Cutie Scholarship Pageant wore natural hairstyle such as braids, bantu knots and dreadlocks at The Avenue Event Complex in Memphis on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018.

A new Louisiana law will protect Black girls and women from being discriminated against in schools and the workplace because of natural hairstyles.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed New Orleans Democratic Rep. Candace Newell's House Bill 1083 into law after a two-year effort to pass such a bill in the Louisiana Legislature.

Newell's law is known as the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair).

"Hair discrimination is racial discrimination, and discrimination is not a Louisiana value," Edwards said. "Rep. Newell's CROWN Act will protect Louisianans from discrimination based on a person's natural, protective or cultural hairstyle. It is with great pride that I signed it into law."

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The CROWN movement began in 2019 as a collaboration between the soap maker Dove and the National Urban League, Color Of Change and Western Center on Law and Poverty.

A study funded by the coalition found 86% of teenage girls who said they experienced discrimination reported that they had experienced discrimination based on their hair by age 12.

"Hair discrimination is rooted in the belief that straight hair is ultimately cleaner, neater or more professional, while it’s opposite for hair that is textured," Newell said. "The legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of hair texture, natural hairstyles and protective hairstyles."

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The new law "prohibits natural, protective, or cultural hairstyle discrimination in education, employment, public accommodations and housing options."

Newell tweeted after Edwards signed her bill Tuesday: "What a beautiful way to celebrate National Crown Day a few days early! The CROWN Act has cleared the last hurdle & will become law in Louisiana! Thank you to all the advocates who spoke about their experiences with natural hair throughout the process."

At least 15 states have passed similar laws, while the U.S. House passed a federal version of the CROWN Act in March.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.