At Ploughshares: Ornette Coleman and the Color of Fort Worth

ornette-coleman albums

My first piece for the Ploughshares blog is up now. It’s on the complicated relationship between jazz legend Ornette Coleman and his (and my) hometown, Fort Worth. I’ve been thinking about this one since Coleman died last summer, so I’m really glad to see it published. To summarize, I argue that what complicated Ornette’s relationship to the city was the race issue, and I suggest that his story can be seen as another example of James Baldwin’s experience of the “great shock” of watching cowboy movies as a kid, and facing the realization that “although you are rooting for Gary Cooper, that the Indians are you.”

And the timing is really interesting: just last week I was back in Fort Worth for my annual family trip to the Stock Show and Rodeo, the city’s tremendous, month-long cowboy extravaganza. Guess what greeted Stock Show visitors this year as they looked for parking along University Avenue?

A line of about a dozen old men waving Confederate flags. (Note: I didn’t get a picture of all of them. There were several more just out of view.)


I hope to have more to say about this in a post or two soon. For now, I would really appreciate it if you’d visit my post at Ploughshares. And while you’re there, please check out all of the great writing on the blog!



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