Historically, black girls and women has been subjected to high public scrutiny that represents their bodies and hair styles as deviant from a European standard of beauty and respectability. Black women have endured many social pressures that have shaped their hair choices in various ways. I will explore assimilation theories of culture and the construction of dominant ideals of worth and respectability within K-12 settings, to document the ways in which black girls' hairstyles have been stigmatized. For this this study, I conducted a media and discourse analysis to document the language that is used to stigmatize black women's hair, focusing on K-12 school settings in the United States.

As of 2016, several schools have attempted to ban natural and other African American hairstyles in the states of Kentucky and North Carolina. I used Lexis-Nexis, Google News and Ethnic News Watch databases to search and compile the occurrences of school regulation of Black hairstyles over the last 10 years in the United States. Despite the cultural, social and political advancements of African Americans in 21st century, discrimination against African American boys and girls in K-12 settings is a key site of inequality. Furthermore, this time frame will give us insight on the ways that K-12 educational settings continue to be a main site of transmission of dominant social standards and the reproduction of social inequality. Additionally, I will explore the ways in which African American feminists have created a space of self-celebration and self-love to resist the negative representations of black femininity. This intersectional approach will help in understanding how a longer history of the stigmatization of Black women's hair continues in the contemporary moment. At the same time, looking for the ways that Black women have resisted and continue to shape positive images for themselves is an important aspect of this research. This study will contribute to the national debate on K-12 school's power in regulating black students' hair choices and styles to illuminate a longer history of stigma and an even longer history of resistance.


Ana Perez

Committee Member

Laura Harrison

Committee Member

Christopher Brown

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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