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May 2, 2024

Pressley, Watson Coleman, Booker, Colleagues Reintroduce CROWN Act to Fight Race-Based Hair Discrimination

CROWN Act Has Already Been Enacted In 23 States and Dozens Of Cities Nationwide

Text of Bill (PDF) | Press Conference (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) joined Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Summer Lee (PA-12) and Maxwell Frost (FL-10) to announce the reintroduction of the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act in the House of Representatives, a bill to outlaw discrimination on the basis of hair texture. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) also announced reintroduction of the CROWN Act in the Senate. 

The lawmakers unveiled the legislation at a Capitol Hill press conference. Full video of the press conference is available here.

“It is 2024 and discrimination against natural hair continues to disrupt our lives. No one should have the right to punish Black folks for showing up as our full, authentic selves – not in Massachusetts, Texas, or anywhere else,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley. “We need a federal CROWN Act now more than ever. Whether you are a student in a classroom, an employee in the workplace, or the next Supreme Court Justice, you belong everywhere as you are. I am proud to join my sisters-in-service in reintroducing this crucial legislation to end race-based hair discrimination in America once and for all.”

“Our hair plays a significant role in our overall well-being, self-esteem, cultural identity, and personal expression,” said Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman. “Discrimination against Black hair is discrimination against Black people. And we’re going to put a stop to it. I’m grateful to the broad coalition that has developed to pass this legislation and look forward to working with them to ensure everyone can live as their authentic selves.”

“Nobody should face harassment or discrimination based on their natural hair, and the CROWN Act is an effort to heal a systemic bias that tells Black people that who they inherently are is wrong,” said Senator Booker. “Prejudice against Black hair demeans an important foundation of our identity and cultural heritage. It’s time that the long and storied history of implicit and explicit biases against natural hair comes to an end. Black hair is beautiful in all of its forms and styles, and we must ensure individuals are free to express their cultural identities without fear of prejudice or bias.”

“There is a longstanding history of racial discrimination against natural hair and protective styles in the workplace, schools, and society at large. Purportedly race-neutral grooming policies that reinforce Eurocentric standards of beauty and myopic notions of what constitute professional hair are problematic. To that end, since 2018, I have worked tirelessly to pass the CROWN Act and shift culture to mitigate the physical, psychological, and economic harm caused by race-based hair discrimination,” said Dr. Adjoa B. Asamoah who is the scholar and strategist leading the nationwide CROWN Act movement. “We must work collectively to protect our children, like Darryl George, and ensure they have positive educational experiences. I am grateful for the partnership and leadership of Congresswoman Watson Coleman and Senator Booker.”

“I am proud to stand with my colleagues Rep. Watson Coleman, Rep. Pressley, Rep. Omar, and Rep. Moore to reintroduce the CROWN Act,” said Rep. Barbara Lee. “Hair discrimination is rooted in systemic racism and is a real barrier to advancement and empowerment for people of color.  For far too long, GOP dysfunction has blocked this legislation, but we will not relent until Black people can wear their natural hair however they see fit, without fear of discrimination. No one should feel forced to change who they are in order to secure a job or fair and decent housing.”

“Hair discrimination is a reality that Black people face daily across America – in schools, workplaces, and public spaces,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar. “Natural hair textures and protective styles have unfairly subjected people to discrimination, missed opportunities, and humiliation. The CROWN Act draws a firm line, making it crystal clear that this form of race-based discrimination will not be tolerated. No one deserves to be judged or held back because of their hair texture or cultural hairstyle.”

“In our country, Black women’s hair is 2.5x more likely to be perceived as unprofessional and over 20% of Black women have been sent home from work because of their hair. A student in my former PA House District was once told ‘change your hair or go home,’” said Rep. Summer Lee. “I was proud to introduce the CROWN Act during my time in Pennsylvania, and look forward to taking this fight in Congress–because it’s long past time to make respect for our beautiful Black hair the law of the land in this country.”

“It’s 2024 and Black hair is still criminalized,” said Rep. Gwen Moore. “We need the CROWN Act to affirm that any person – no matter their hair texture or style – should be free to wear their hair as it grows out of their head without facing discrimination at work or school. I’m proud to wear my sister locs in Congress and I’m excited to partner on this bill with so many of my trailblazing colleagues.”

“I applaud Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and Senator Cory Booker for their leadership in reintroducing the CROWN Act to bring forward necessary change,” said Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Steven Horsford. “For too long, race-based hair discrimination, which permeates every part of our society from the workplace to the classroom, has been historically used to shut off access to educational and employment opportunities for Black Americans. Students like Darryl George in Anahuac, Texas should not be barred from his classroom, and Black women all over our country should not be forced to change their hair to be accepted in the workplace. We must pass the CROWN Act on the national level to finally outlaw race-based hair discrimination.”

“Racial discrimination can come in many different shapes and forms, with hair discrimination chief among them,” said Rep. Maxwell Frost. “No one should be discriminated against because of the color of their skin or the texture of their hair — but that’s exactly what’s happening in our country. In schools, in places of business, and beyond, folks with textured hair, mainly Black men and women, are finding themselves with the doors of opportunity closed to them simply because of their natural hair. Enough is enough. I’m proud to help introduce the CROWN Act alongside Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman to help us bring an end to this discrimination.”

The CROWN Act, which has already been enacted in 23 states and dozens of cities nationwide, would help bring an end to race-based hair discrimination in schools and workplaces, removing a barrier to educational and economic opportunity facing many Black Americans and people of color. In the school setting, Black students are disciplined at a rate four times higher than any other racial or ethnic group, and research has found that 70 percent of all suspension disciplines are discretionary, many stemming from dress code violations, including “unapproved” hair styles. Meanwhile, in the workplace, bias against ethnic and natural hairstyles contributes to reduced opportunities for job advancement, particularly for women. Over 20% of young Black women have been sent home from work because of their hair. One-third of Black women under 34 believe they have been denied a job interview because of their hair.

The CROWN Act passed the House of Representatives in 2019 and 2022 but was blocked in the Senate.

The CROWN Act would:

  • Prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s style or texture of hair by including an individual’s style of hair that is tightly coiled or tightly-curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, Afros and any other style of hair commonly associated with a race or national origin in the definition of racial discrimination.
  • Provide research, statistics, and precedent to support a sense of Congress that there is a need to define and prohibit hair discrimination in the workplace, schools, and housing to enforce the protection of civil rights.
  • Provide clear definitions that describe the enforcement mechanisms of the bill.

“Bravo to Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman for reintroducing the CROWN Act, which seeks to undo generations of systemic hair discrimination that’s done immeasurable harm to so many individuals,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher. “It’s time to end these discriminatory practices. I applaud lawmakers who push for the real change necessary to achieve equity in the workplace and public schools. An acceptance of the diversity of the human experience will be the greatest step towards peace on earth.”

“As an advocate for equality and fairness in all aspects of society, APFA proudly endorses the CROWN Act, or the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act,” said Julie Hedrick, National President of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA). “The CROWN Act aims to end race-based discrimination because of hair texture or protective hairstyles. While already passed in some states and municipalities, the bill would provide critical federal-level protection for individuals who might otherwise be judged or penalized based on their natural hair texture or style. Flight Attendants, like all individuals, deserve a work environment free from bias and discrimination. APFA commends Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, representing the 12th district of New Jersey, for introducing the CROWN Act and we look forward to advocating for its passage. Together, we can work towards a future where everyone, regardless of their hairstyle, can feel valued, respected, and accepted in both the workplace and beyond.”

“No one should be punished, harassed, or discriminated against for wearing a hairstyle that is reflective of themselves and their cultural heritage,” said Denise Forte, President and CEO of EdTrust. “Yet many Black students routinely face disciplinary consequences for their natural or ethnic hairstyles: 53% of Black mothers say their daughters experienced hair discrimination by age five; and 86% of Black teens state they experienced hair discrimination by age 12. For example, a Houston-area high school student has been suspended since last August because of his locs. In a lawsuit, a Texas judge ruled in favor of the school district, further codifying natural hair discrimination and shamelessly upholding standards of white supremacy. The CROWN Act would help bring an end to race-based hair discrimination and allow for a more supportive school environment for students of color — particularly Black students, who bear the brunt of hair criminalization.” 

“All students, no matter their race or place, deserve equal access to educational opportunities,” said National Education Association President Becky Pringle. “They deserve the right to be their true authentic selves without fear of subjective discipline or body shaming. However, too often, the same politicians who ban books and demonize transgender students want to tell Black girls what to wear and Black kids how to wear their hair. This small group of people in power is threatening the success of our students in school and beyond with their anti-Black hair policies. The National Education Association applauds the introduction of the CROWN Act because it acknowledges that people of color in K-12 public schools, workplaces, housing, and public accommodations face hair-based discrimination, and the legislation creates consequences for those who are responsible for it. More to the point, we welcome the proposal’s attempt to expand federal protections to end hair discrimination nationwide. By joining across race and place, we can create real change and contribute to the movement to end hair discrimination and to ensure every student has access to a safe, welcoming public school free from discrimination where they can thrive into their brilliant selves.”

In addition to Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Barbara Lee, Ilhan Omar, Gwen Moore, Summer Lee, and Maxwell Alejandro Frost, the CROWN Act is cosponsored by Reps. Robin Kelly, Yvette Clarke, Adam Schiff, Adam Smith, Adriano Espaillat, Al Green, Alma Adams, Andre Carson, Bennie G. Thompson, Bobby Scott, Colin Allred, Cori Bush, Dan Goldman, Danny K. Davis, David Scott, David Trone, Delia C. Ramirez, Donald G. Davis, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Dwight Evans, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Emanuel Cleaver, Emilia Sykes, Frederica Wilson, Gabe Amo, Glenn Ivey, Greg Landsman, Gregory Meeks, Haley Stevens, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jahana Hayes, Jamaal Bowman, Jan Schakowsky, Jasmine Crockett, Jennifer McClellan, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Jim Clyburn, Jim McGovern, Joe Neguse, Jonathan Jackson, Joyce Beatty, Juan Vargas, Kevin Mullin, Kweisi Mfume, Lauren Underwood, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Lloyd Doggett, Lucy McBath, Marc Veasey, Marilyn Strickland, Mark Pocan, Maxine Waters, Mike Quigley, Morgan McGarvey, Nikema Williams, Nydia M. Velázquez, Paul D. Tonko, Rashida Tlaib, Richie Torres, Ro Khanna, Robert Garcia, Sara Jacobs, Scott Peters, Sheila Cherfilus McCormick, Sheila Jackson Lee, Shontel Brown, Stacey Plasket, Sanford Bishop, Steve Cohen, Steve Horsford, Suzanne Bonamici, Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Sylvia R. Garcia, Terri A. Sewell, Tony Cárdenas, Troy Carter, Valerie Foushee, and Veronica Escobar

 The text of the CROWN Act can be read here.

Congresswoman Pressley has been steadfast in her advocacy for Black women’s health, ending race-based hair discrimination, and introducing policies that affirm the right of Black women to show up in the world as their full, authentic selves.

  • Rep. Pressley is a lead co-sponsor of the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act, legislation with Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Ilhan Omar (MN-05) that would ban discrimination based on hair textures and hairstyles that are commonly associated with a particular race or national origin.
  • In October 2023, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Shontel Brown applauded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed rule to ban certain harmful chemicals in hair smoothing or hair straightening products following their initial letter to the agency in March.
  • In June 2023, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-02) led their colleagues in re-introducing the Wigs as Durable Medical Equipment Act, legislation to help individuals affected by Alopecia Areata and patients with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy by allowing medical wigs and other head coverings to be covered under the Medicare program.
  • In May 2023, Rep. Pressley, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and Rep. Jennifer McClellan (VA-04) introduced the Recognition of Traction Alopecia in Service Women Act of 2023 to support servicemembers with traction alopecia.
  • In April 2023, Rep. Pressley reintroduced the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, a bicameral bill to declare structural racism a public health crisis and confront its public health impacts through two bold new programs within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rep. Pressley originally introduced the bill in September 2020.
  • In 2020, the House passed an amendment introduced by Congresswoman Pressley to provide $5 million dollars for the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to fund research on the causes, impacts, and possible treatments of Alopecia areata.
  • In December 2019, Rep. Pressley and her colleagues sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky seeking information on the targeted marketing and sale of the company’s talc-based baby powder and its potential to cause harm, particularly to women, teenage girls, and people of color, due to asbestos contamination.