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BY Francis Akhalbey, 9:30am May 19, 2023,

Renowned Blues musician Otis Taylor, 74, awarded high school diploma decades after he was expelled for fancy hair 

Denver's Manual High School in 1966 expelled Otis Taylor because of his hair -- Photo Credit: Piotr Drabik

After Manual High School expelled Otis Taylor in 1966 over his hair, the Denver Public Schools recently decided to make it right by awarding the renowned 74-year-old Blues musician a diploma.

According to CBS News, the incident, which happened more than 50 years ago, occurred during a period when there were no laws prohibiting hair discrimination. In an interview with the news outlet, the award-winning musician shared some memories during his time at the high school – though he did not vividly recall the day the school expelled him.

“I remember that day thinking, ‘Oh, I’m out of school!'” Taylor, who was 17 when he was kicked out, said. “You had to have that James Brown haircut” during that era, he added. 

“You can have all you want on the top, but you had to be clean on the sides,” he recalled. “The whole school district was coming down on people who didn’t look how they wanted you to look.”

Taylor said he ultimately decided to walk away after school administrators told him to either cut his hair or leave. “I wasn’t thinking about me going into the janitorial business or something. I was trying to figure out how to do my music,” he said in reference to his plans at the time he was expelled.

Taylor also recalled his parents did not take it lightly when they learned he had been expelled, adding that he subsequently moved to California as his father stayed there. He also said his dad ultimately took him to the barber to get a haircut after he was jailed for getting into trouble.

“My father let me sit there for three days. When I came out, he took me straight to a barber. I got my haircut!” he jokingly told CBS News.

During the presentation ceremony, the Vice President of the Denver School Board, Auon’tai Anderson, said, ‘Today is a day that we rectify the failures of the past.” “I know what Otis experienced along with others will no longer happen in the state of Colorado,” Anderson added.

When he was asked if his life would have panned out in another way if he had accepted to cut his hair, Taylor said has never pondered on that since life has been great for him. 

“The wrong happened a long time ago. So being a Black man in America, I’m going to deal with wrongs,” he said. “My kids went to college. My wife loves me and we’ve been married for 37 years. How can I regret?”

Taylor did not let being expelled from high school hold him back as he has had a stellar music career that has seen him win several awards on the way. He is best known for his critically acclaimed song, Ten Million Slaves. Prominent television shows and movies such as Johnny Depp’s 2009 Public Enemies have featured the song. 

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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