Braiding Freedom

Standing up for natural hair braiders’ right to earn an honest living.

About the Initiative

Since the advent of hair braiding more than 5,000 years ago, it has been a simple and safe practice that government has no business regulating. African-style hair braiding uses no dyes or chemicals, and it is safe for braiders to perform and safe for the people getting their hair braided. But in most states, if you want to braid hair for a living, you need to get permission from the government first.

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Updates

Initiative Cases

The Institute for Justice has filed lawsuits in three states challenging various laws governing natural hair braiding practices.

Washington Hair Braiding

In March 2005, the Washington Department of Licensing issued a statement in response to a lawsuit involving African hair braiders. That statement promised braiders that their profession does not—and will not—require a cosmetology license. Find out more

Missouri Hair Braiding

If you want to braid hair for a living in Missouri, you must spend thousands of dollars on at least 1,500 hours of cosmetology training that teaches you nothing about African-style hair braiding. That’s  far more time and money than it takes to become a licensed EMT in the state. Find out more

Arkansas Hair Braiding

Since the advent of hair braiding more than 5,000 years ago, it has been a simple and safe practice that government has no business regulating. African-style hair braiding uses no dyes or chemicals, and it is safe for braiders to perform and safe for the people getting their hair braided. But if you want to braid hair for a living in Arkansas, you need to get permission from the government first. Find out more

Our Supporters and Past Clients

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Dr. JoAnne Cornwell

A “locktician” from San Diego, Dr. JoAnne Cornwell created “sisterlocks,” a tiny and uniform technique of naturally styling hair. Sisterlocks has certified associates in over 30 states. But when Dr. Cornwell first tried to open her own braiding salon in the 1990s, she learned she need a license in cosmetology, which required 1,600 hours of training. (more…)

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Isis Brantley

At her braiding school in Dallas, the Institute for Ancestral Braiding, Isis Brantley has braided hair for a diverse clientele, including homeless women and Grammy award-winning artist Erykah Badu. Brantley is also passionate about the right to braid hair freely, calling it “the latest civil rights struggle.” (more…)

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Melony Armstrong

For almost 15 years, Melony Armstrong has owned her own natural hair braiding business, Naturally Speaking, in Tupelo, Miss. Starting from scratch, she now employs 25 people and has trained more than 125 people how to braid. (more…)

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Pamela Farrell and Taalib Din Uqdah

Pioneers in the natural hair care field, Taalib din Uqdah, along with his wife Pamela Ferrell, opened Cornrows & Co. in 1980 to provide high-quality African hair styling to customers in Washington, D.C. Cornrows & Co. soon flourished, providing a popular service to the community, paying tens of thousands of dollars in taxes annually and creating jobs and training opportunities for the unemployed. (more…)

Locked Out: A Mississippi Success Story

Locked Out: A Mississippi Success Story

About the Institute for Justice

Founded in 1991, the Institute for Justice is what a civil liberties law firm should be. As the national law firm for liberty, we stick to a clear mission engaging in cutting-edge litigation and advocacy both in the courts of law and in the court of public opinion on behalf of individuals whose most basic rights are denied by the government. Our four pillars of litigation are private property, economic liberty, free speech and school choice. Simply put, we seek a rule of law under which individuals can control their destinies as free and responsible members of society.

The Institute for Justice is a 501(c)(3) organization; donations are tax-deductible.

Braiding Initiative Team

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Arkansas

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Paul Avelar

Attorney

Paul Avelar serves as a staff attorney with the Institute for Justice’s Arizona Chapter.  He joined the Institute in March 2010 and litigates free speech, school choice, property rights, economic liberty and other constitutional cases in both federal and state courts.

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Erica Smith

Attorney

Erica Smith is an attorney with the Institute for Justice. She joined IJ in August 2011 and litigates cutting-edge constitutional cases protecting free speech, school choice, property rights, and economic liberty in federal and state courts.

Washington

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Wesley Hottot

Attorney

Wesley Hottot joined the Institute’s Washington Chapter (IJ-WA) in 2013 after working in both the Institute’s headquarters office and its Texas Chapter. He is also currently leading a challenge to eyebrow threading regulations in Texas.

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William Maurer

Executive Director of the Institute for Justice Washington Chapter

William R. Maurer is the Executive Director of the Institute for Justice Washington Chapter (IJ-WA), which he joined in November 2002. IJ-WA engages in constitutional litigation in the areas of economic liberty, private property rights, educational choice, freedom of speech, and other vital liberties secured by the U.S. and Washington Constitutions.

Missouri

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Dan Alban

Attorney

Dan Alban serves as an attorney with the Institute for Justice. He joined the Institute in September 2010 and litigates cutting-edge constitutional cases protecting free speech, property rights, economic liberty and other individual liberties in both federal and state courts.

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Greg Reed

Greg Reed is an attorney with the Institute for Justice.  He joined the Institute in 2013 and litigates cases protecting private property, economic liberty and school choice.

Communications

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J. Justin Wilson

Communications Director

As the Institute for Justice’s Director of Communications, J. Justin Wilson works on IJ’s award-winning media team to make the case for economic liberty, free speech, private property rights and school choice in the court of public opinion.