Otis Taylor, a renowned blues musician, received an honorary diploma from Manual High School in Denver this week, 57 years after he was expelled for refusing to cut his hair.
Taylor, 74, was a student at Manual in 1966 when he faced an ultimatum from the school administrators: either trim his hair or leave. He chose the latter, saying he was trying to figure out how to do his music.
“You had to have that James Brown haircut – you can have all you want on the top, but you had to be clean on the sides,” Taylor told CBS News Colorado. “The whole school district was coming down on people who didn’t look how they wanted you to look.”
His parents were upset by his expulsion and his father took him to a barber after three days of grounding. Taylor then moved to California and pursued his musical career, recording more than a dozen blues albums and winning several awards. His song “Ten Million Slaves” was featured in the movie “Public Enemies” and the TV show “Justified”.
Denver Public Schools decided to “right a wrong” and invited Taylor to a ceremony where they presented him with an honorary diploma, symbolizing the one he would have received if the current laws against racial hair discrimination were in effect at the time.
“Today is a day that we rectify the failures of the past,” said Auon’tai Anderson, vice president of the Denver School Board. “I know what Otis experienced along with others will no longer happen in the state of Colorado.”
Taylor said he did not regret his decision and was happy with his life and career. He also said he was used to dealing with wrongs as a Black man in America.
“My kids went to college. My wife loves me and we’ve been married for 37 years. How can I regret?” he said.
Taylor will perform at Dazzle in Denver in May and at City Park in July.
- Blues singer gets high school diploma decades after being expelled for his hair | US news | The Guardian | May 17, 2023
- For Otis Taylor, ‘a wrong will be righted,’ 57 years later | Denver Gazette | May 16, 2023
- Blues legend Otis Taylor receives honorary diploma from Manual High School | FOX31 Denver | May 17, 2023