Black Hairstyles

July 22, 2022 • Volume 32, Issue 25
Is legislation needed to protect against discrimination?
By Ruth Terry


Some employers have fired or refused to hire Black workers because of their dreadlocks, cornrows or braids, and white teachers and coaches have cut Black and brown students' hair, saying it violates school dress codes. Experts say such actions echo the historic behavior of enslavers, who shaved the heads of kidnapped Africans to humiliate and punish them. The natural hair movement, aided by social media, has helped to mainstream hair texture diversity and expose discrimination against Black hairstyles. At least 17 states have enacted laws expanding civil rights protections to include hair, and in March the U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill. Republican critics of the measures say they are unnecessary and that lawmakers should focus on bigger problems, such as inflation and immigration. Supporters say hair discrimination is a serious economic issue when workers lose their livelihoods due to hairstyle bias.

Photo of Ava DuVernay and Tessa Thompson in Los Angeles, California, on November 15, 2021. (Getty Images/InStyle/Emma McIntyre)
Film director Ava DuVernay, left, and actress Tessa Thompson wear cornrows and dreadlocks at the 2021 InStyle Awards in Los Angeles. Advocates of the natural hair movement say Black people are often discriminated against because of their hair, echoing enslavers' efforts to humiliate or punish captive Africans by cutting their hair. (Getty Images/InStyle/Emma McIntyre)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement
Jul. 22, 2022  Black Hairstyles
Nov. 15, 1985  Black America Long March for Equality
Aug. 12, 1983  Black Political Power
Jan. 18, 1980  Black Leadership Question
Aug. 15, 1973  Black Americans, 1963–1973
Nov. 26, 1969  Racial Discrimination in Craft Unions
Sep. 11, 1968  Black Pride
Feb. 21, 1968  Negro Power Struggle
Mar. 08, 1967  Negroes in the Economy
Jan. 19, 1966  Changing Southern Politics
Oct. 27, 1965  Negroes in the North
Jul. 21, 1965  Negro Revolution: Next Steps
Oct. 14, 1964  Negro Voting
Sep. 21, 1964  Negroes and the Police
Jul. 03, 1963  Right of Access to Public Accommodations
Jan. 23, 1963  Negro Jobs and Education
Mar. 25, 1960  Violence and Non-Violence in Race Relations
Aug. 05, 1959  Negro Employment
Apr. 18, 1956  Racial Issues in National Politics
Apr. 18, 1951  Progress in Race Relations
Dec. 17, 1948  Discrimination in Employment
Jan. 10, 1947  Federal Protection of Civil Liberties
Aug. 25, 1944  The Negro Vote
Jul. 01, 1942  Racial Discrimination and the War Effort
Mar. 25, 1939  Civil and Social Rights of the Negro
Jul. 22, 1927  Disenfranchisement of the Negro in the South
Affirmative Action
Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Issues
Civil Rights Movement
Civil Rights: African Americans
Civil Rights: Native Americans
Conservatism and Liberalism
Consumer Behavior
Equal Employment Opportunity & Discrimination
Federal Courts
General Social Trends
Historic Preservation
Internet and Social Media
Labor Standards and Practices
Party Politics
Popular Culture
Protest Movements
Segregation and Desegregation
Women in the Workplace
Work and the Family