Braiding Freedom

A project of the Institute for Justice

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.”

In 1997, she was arrested by seven undercover police officers and taken out of her own salon for not having a cosmetology license. After a decade of fighting for her rights, the Texas legislature created a separate certificate for hair braiders and recognized Brantley as the very first natural hair care expert in the state in 2007. Now braiders only need 35 hours of training.

But to legally teach that course to her students, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation is forcing Brantley to take 750 hours to become a licensed barber instructor. The Department also wants Brantley to convert her school into a barber college and install equipment she’ll never use. Complying would cost her over $20,000.

In October 2013, she filed a lawsuit with the Institute for Justice. As of this writing, the case is still pending.