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.
But almost immediately, the Board of Cosmetology commenced a decade-long campaign of harassment. In 1989, the nation’s capital slapped Cornrows & Co. with $1,000 in fines for operating a beauty salon and training program without a cosmetology license, even though the District’s cosmetology program did not teach natural hair braiding.
In IJ’s first case, Uqdah and Ferrell partnered with the Institute for Justice and sued the District of Columbia. One year later, the D.C. city council voted to create a separate license for hair braiders in December 1992.