Otis Taylor was not allowed to graduate from high school because of his hair. He finally earned his degree after 57 years.

When he was 17 and in his senior year at Denver High School, Otis Taylor was told to “cut your hair or leave.” So, Taylor left – and became a popular blues artist. Now, after more than half a century, he has finally received his long-awaited degree.

A clip from The Denver Post shows 14-year-old Otis Taylor with his banjo.

Otis Taylor

Taylor, 74, was born in Chicago and raised in Denver, Colorado. By the time he entered Manual High School in the 1960s, segregation in public schools was not uncommon and there were no laws preventing officials from making decisions based on his or other black students’ hair. file was not CROWN’S LAW which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” and prohibits discrimination based on texture and hairstyle, it has made progress in the states and in Congress.

he said at the time CBS News ColoradoHe had a James Brown haircut.

“You can have whatever you want on top,” he said, “but you have to be clean on the sides.” “The entire school district was getting bombarded with people who didn’t look how they wanted you to look.”

And he wasn’t willing to give up his freedom of style, so when the officials gave him an ultimatum, he left on a mission to “find out how to play my music.”

“I remember that day thinking, ‘Oh, I’m out of school!'” he recalled. ”

So he ventured to California where his father lived. After a few years and a trip to London later, he landed a contract with Blue Horizon Records, according to him website. But he soon ended up in Boulder, where he’s been playing music on and off ever since, winning fellowships, awards, and loyal fans.

And last week, he finally got a recognition that has eluded him for decades — his high school diploma.

“Today is a day when we make amends for the failures of the past,” Oilai Anderson, vice president of the Denver School Board, said at the commencement ceremony. “I know that what Otis experienced, along with others, will never happen again in Colorado.”

And while earning a diploma was a happy occasion, Taylor told CBS Colorado his life was too good to regret or reflect on what happened all those decades ago.

“This went wrong a long time ago. Being a black man in America, I’m going to deal with the wrongs,” he said. “My kids went to college. My wife loves me, we’ve been married for 37 years. How can I regret it?”

So what comes next for Taylor? He gave a hint on his band’s Facebook page.

“Now that I have a diploma, maybe I can apply to Berklee School of Music [sic]. ”

Otis Taylor finally received his high school diploma more than half a century after he was expelled for his hair.


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