Mississippi Hairbraiding

Institute for Justice Untangles Mississippi’s Cosmetology Licensing Laws, Setting African Hairbraiders Free
Armstrong v. Lunsford

Margaret Burden and Melony Armstrong.

The Institute for Justice helped secure a major victory for economic liberty in April 2005 when the governor of Mississippi signed legislation freeing the state’s African hairbraiders from the irrelevant and unnecessary licensing requirements of the State Board of Cosmetology. Previously, braiders across the state were prevented from earning an honest living practicing or teaching their craft—until they completed up to several thousand hours of cosmetology training that generally do not include the art of African hairbraiding.

In April 2004, the Institute for Justice filed a civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi challenging Mississippi’s cosmetology laws on behalf of Melony Armstrong, an experienced Tupelo braider who wishes to teach her trade, as well as Christina Griffin and Margaret Burden, two aspiring braiders who want to learn from Armstrong.

Prompted by IJ’s lawsuit, the state legislature exempted braiders from the cosmetology regulations. Braiders are now simply required to pay a $25 registration fee with the Board of Health, post basic health and sanitation guidelines at their places of business, and complete a self-test on that information. Now, entrepreneurs like Armstrong, Griffin and Burden are free to pursue their dreams in the occupation of their choice.

Essential Background


Background on this case

Client Photo - none available

Latest Release: With Governor’s Signature Today, Mississippi Untangles Braiding Regulations (April 19, 2005)

Client Video - none available


Launch Release: Economic Liberty Lawsuit Challenges Mississippi’s Cosmetology Licensing Laws (August 5, 2004)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

none available


Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


August 5, 2004

Court Filed:


U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi

Key Date:


April 19, 2005: Mississippi Governor signs legislation


Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Mississippi State Senate Votes to Set Hairbraiders Free (March 9, 2004)

none available

Release: Mississippi Hairbraiders to State Senators: “Get the Board of Cosmetology Out of Our Hair” (March 3, 2005)





Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: New IJ Study Documents: The Power of One Entrepreneur Liberty & Law (December 2009)



Article: IJ Untangles Cosmetology Laws With Back-to-Back Hairbraiding Victories, Liberty & Law (June 2005)

Op-ed: African craft of hairbraiding is over-regulated The Clarion-Ledger (January 28, 2005) 

Article: Hairbraiding Lawsuits Make A National Case For Economic Liberty (October 2004)

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