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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.

Paramedics, police officers and security guards all need less training for licensure. She partnered with the Institute for Justice and filed a federal lawsuit in 1997.

In 1999, federal judge Rudi Brewster struck down requiring the cosmetology license for braiders, noting there was a “mismatch” between the mandated curriculum and the skills braiders would use in their field. As such, it “failed to pass constitutional muster” under the 14th Amendment.

Dr. Cornwell is currently an associate professor of French and Africana Studies at San Diego State University and once chaired the university’s Africana Studies Department.

  • January 28, 1997    |   Economic Liberty

    California Hair Braiding

    Challenging Barriers to Economic Opportunity

    Teaming with Dr. JoAnne Cornwell, a “locktician” from San Diego who created the “Sisterlocks” technique of natural hairstyling (and who chairs of the Africana Studies Department at San Diego State University), the Institute for Justice in 1999 struck down California’s expansive, expensive and arbitrary cosmetology laws that had prevented hundreds of African-Americans (mostly women) from…

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