Kentucky Governor Enacts Hair Discrimination Ban, Establishes Juneteenth As State Holiday

Andy Beshear

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has signed two significant executive orders: one recognizing Juneteenth as an official state holiday and another prohibiting discrimination based on natural hairstyles, including braids, locs, and twists.

These actions position Kentucky among at least 28 states and Washington, D.C., that have formally recognized Juneteenth as a public holiday, as reported by Pew Research Center.

On May 23, Governor Beshear stated:

“I’ve decided I can no longer wait for others to do what is right. We must look at it straight on and not hide from our own history, even the parts that are painful. Instead, we recognize it, attempt to learn from it, and work to repair the lasting damage and heal our nation’s wounds so we can make progress for a better tomorrow.”

Juneteenth, now a federal holiday, commemorates the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom—two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued during the Civil War.

President Joe Biden signed legislation establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021.

The second executive order addresses hair discrimination, an issue highlighted by a 2023 study conducted by the national CROWN Act.

The study found that nearly half of Black women feel pressured to conform their hairstyles to European standards, particularly in professional settings.

While 22 states had enacted CROWN Acts by 2023, Beshear’s order specifically applies to state government employees and job applicants, prohibiting discrimination based on natural hair texture and protective hairstyles.

Governor Beshear’s executive orders aim to align Kentucky with other states that have acknowledged the historical and cultural significance of June 19, 1865, and the importance of protecting individuals from discriminatory practices based on their natural hair.

Beshear also urged fellow politicians to support future legislation that benefits Black Americans, stressed on the need for continued progress and equality.