Oct. 7, 1955
Jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie and others were arrested in Houston, Texas, after performing before an integrated audience. The police’s vice squad claimed they did it because there was gambling in a backstage dressing room.
Saxophonist Jean-Baptiste Illinois Jacquet played that night. “I wanted Houston to see a hell of a concert, and they should see it like they were in Carnegie Hall,” he told the Houston Press. “I felt if I didn’t do anything about the segregation in my hometown, I would regret it. This was the time to do it. Segregation had to come to an end.”
The arrests made national headlines, and a year later, the legends played to an integrated audience. This time, there were no arrests.
“I’m proud of what I did because I had no choice,” Jacquet recalled. “If you’re not going to do anything about it, then you don’t care about where you came from.”