Wonderful Tunes Provided By Friends. Wild Tangents Provided By Me.

Charles Mingus

Orval Faubus was Govenor of Arkansas from 1955-1967. That’s six terms if anyone’s counting.  In 1957 Govenor Faubus ordered the Arkasas National Guard to prevent the federally mandated integration of Arkansas Schools. It was one of the first tests of the new Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision so it was national news. It came to the attention of African-Americans all over the country including Charles Mingus. “Fables Of Faubus” first appears on the 1959 album “Mingus Ah Um” but Columbia refused to allow him to record the lyrics. He re-recorded the song in 1960 with lyrics for an independent label. The words are a bit difficult to understand so here’s a link to a transcript.


And here’s the song:

As I mentioned before, I spent the first 12 years of my life in Chicago. Desegregation did not come to Chicago until… well, ever. Chicago is still quite segregated even today. I lived in an all Black neighborhood and went to an all Black school from first to 6th grade. One of my Mom’s favorite stories is about the very first time I ever saw a person of European decent up close. I was 4 or 5 at the time. Apparently I climbed up onto a kitchen chair and stood nose to nose with the woman and announced loudly “Hey, you got BLUE eyeballs!” Other than that we really only ever saw people of other races at the zoo, museum, or amusement park.

When we moved to California things changed radically! It was the first time I ever sat in a classroom with kids who weren’t Black. In fact, in most cases, I was the only Black kid in the room. It was pretty traumatic at first but I got used to it.


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