Isis Brantley and Her Ongoing Battle for Hair Braiding Justice in Texas

In 1997, natural hair stylist and hairbraider activist, Isis Brantley was arrested for braiding hair without a barber license, a crime under Texas law. She challenged her arrest, and the Texas legislature eventually created a separate licensing scheme for hairbraiders.

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Isis Brantley

16 years later, Brantley is back in court — this time, filing federal suit against the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. According to Brantley’s complaint, Texas law would require her to “spend 2,250 hours in barber school, pass four licensing exams, and spend thousands of dollars … all to teach a 35-hour hairbraiding curriculum” to her students. She alleges that the law violates her 14th Amendment Due Process, Equal Protection, and Privileges or Immunities rights, as the 14th Amendment was designed to “protect economic liberty” and prevent unreasonable government interference “with the right to earn an honest living in one’s chosen occupation.”

In filing the suit, Brantley joined forces with the Institute of Justice, a well-known libertarian law firm, producing the video below. She also published a piece in Huffington Post, “Hairbraiding is the Latest Civil Rights Struggle.”  Like other civil rights struggles, litigation in the court of public opinion may be just as necessary as in traditional legal forums.


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