The human beta-globin gene locus is the subject of intense study, and over the past two decades a wealth of information has accumulated on how tissue-specific and stage-specific expression of its genes is achieved. The data are extensive and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to formulate a comprehensive model integrating every aspect of what is currently known. In this review, we introduce the fundamental characteristics of globin locus regulation as well as questions on which much of the current research is predicated. We then outline a hypothesis that encompasses more recent results, focusing on the modification of higher-order chromatin structure and recruitment of transcription complexes to the globin locus. The essence of this hypothesis is that the locus control region (LCR) is a genetic entity highly accessible to and capable of recruiting, with great efficiency, chromatin-modifying, coactivator, and transcription complexes. These complexes are used to establish accessible chromatin domains, allowing basal factors to be loaded on to specific globin gene promoters in a developmental stage-specific manner. We conceptually divide this process into four steps: (a) generation of a highly accessible LCR holocomplex; (b) recruitment of transcription and chromatin-modifying complexes to the LCR; (c) establishment of chromatin domains permissive for transcription; (d) transfer of transcription complexes to globin gene promoters.