What is Crown Day? Here's what to know about the holiday celebrating Black hair

What is Crown Day? Here's what to know about the holiday celebrating Black hair
Marianne Ayala/insider
  • July 3rd marks when the CROWN Act first passed, banning hair discrimination in California.
  • It is now law in 13 states, most recently Nevada and is celebrated as "Crown Day."
  • Supporters of the natural hair movement passing federally would be a victory for racial justice.

Nevada became just the 13th state to officially ban hair discrimination in the workforce in June, handing advocates another victory in the long fight toward Black hair acceptance - and just in time for Crown Day.

Also known as the "Black Hair Independence Day," the unofficial holiday celebrates Afro-textured hair - or the tight curls, coils and kinks most often associated with Black and indigenous people of color.

But "nappy", "unruly", or "unprofessional" make just a few of the pejorative adjectives that are instead levied at styles that, like skin or eye color, is merely influenced by common genetics. Applicants have lost jobs, students have been barred from graduation, and women even attacked for simply rocking their hair the way it naturally grows from their heads.

Studies show that from the professional world to Hollywood, institutions punish those who choose to wear cornrows, braids, locs, twists or an Afro. Activists say passing the Crown Act stands to change that.

The roots of Black 'hairstory'

Officially, Crown Day commemorates the inaugural signing of the "Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair" act, which "expanded the definition of race in the Fair Employment and Housing Act" to "ensure protection in workplaces and in K-12 public and charter schools."


First introduced in 2019 by then California state senator Holly J. Mitchell , the bill outlaws "the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture. Mitchell told Insider she started organizing legislation for the bill after several conversations with other Black professionals who went to the same hairdresser in Los Angeles.

She then collaborated with researchers from Dove to release the CROWN Research study illustrating how Afro-textured hair is more heavily policed in the workplace.

It goes back to our foremothers and fathers who were enslaved and forced to cover their heads. What did we do? We created colorful headwraps and put our 'Black Girl Magic' on it. Holly J. Mitchell, Los Angeles County Supervisor

Capitalizing on support from federal and state lawmakers, public figures and corporations soon joined in the movement, and the CROWN Act is now law in 13 states.

This year supporters honor the movement to end hair discrimination with virtual awards, conferences and media campaigns to enlighten participants about an overlooked element of race in the US.

Hair discrimination can be found throughout American history, from the early days of slavery, to the Tignon laws in the post-Civil War era that outlawed Black women showing their hair.


"It goes back to our foremothers and fathers who were enslaved and forced to cover their heads," Sen. Mitchell told Insider.

"What did we do? We created colorful headwraps and put our 'Black girl magic' on it," she said, adding the "current movement is a symbol of 21st Century Black liberation."

Organized natural hair movements grew in the 1960s even as hair discrimination persisted in the professional world. In 1976, the first hair discrimination case, Jenkins v. Blue Cross Mutual Hospital Insurance, was upheld by the courts in favor of afro-textured hair acceptance in the workplace.

Experts note that today's beauty standards have been largely defined by ancient European and Caucasian phenotypes passed down through generations of colonization.

Today that discrimination is evident in media, fashion, and beauty sectors where straight, blonde, or smooth hair is often the default for women.


Across the country, strict dress codes derived from Jim Crow era anti-Black images still bar people who wear their hair naturally from the classroom and boardroom. But advocates insist the CROWN Act is long overdue legislation that can combat equality for Black people in the workforce.

Bigger movements toward acceptance

What is Crown Day? Here's what to know about the holiday celebrating Black hair
Hairstyles such as Afros, commonly associated with Black people and culture, have long been deemed to be "unprofessional." The CROWN Act hopes to change that. Plume Creative / Getty Images
Even the US Army, notoriously strict with protocol, began allowing dreadlocks in 2017 following a four-year long battle to reverse grooming regulations that banned natural hairstyles. Mitchell said that despite the military being one of the more conservative institutions in America, the move paved the way for bills like the CROWN Act.

Jessica Tolbert, a 20-year veteran hair stylist in central Texas, said she noticed the new wave of enthusiasm for natural hair soon after the military introduced the rule. That lead her to learn about the CROWN Act, which Tolbert said would help Black women be more comfortable at work.

"It's a shame it's a fight at all," Tolbert told Insider. "People already have limitations on how they can uniquely express themselves at work. Hair should be the one area that makes a person feel that they are their true selves in the workplace."

Today, though Afro-textured hair and cultural hairstyles are widely accepted and embraced in beauty and fashion, studies show that the workplace is still a source of stress for Black women in particular.

A 2016 Good Hair Study by the Perception Institute found that one in five Black women feel social pressure to straighten their hair for work. Meanwhile, a 2020 Gallup poll concluded that Black women are the least likely to feel valued and treated with respect in the workplace.


Many responded that part of the feeling comes from a lack of understanding of Black hair.

Sen. Mitchell said that's where unofficial holidays like Crown Day come into play.

"We really want people to understand that a eurocentric standard of beauty, which is typically blond and straight, should not be equated with professionalism," she said.

The natural hair movement shows no signs of slowing down, and she says "the goal is to affect federal law and get it on the senate floor." Mitchell called the CROWN Act "just a backstop" for the culture that needs changing more than policy.