Chapter 1. Don’t Cry, Ma
1. Mezzrow learned how to play the Sax/Cornet in Pontiac Reformatory school. He was
sent there because he was caught stealing cars.
2. Vocabulary: creep joints – a negative stereotype
3. He wrote this when he was 46 years old.
4. Quote “I was cut out to be a jazzman the way the righteous are chosen for church.” 1
1. Why did he have to use the word Negroes if he started off by using the colored boys? In
other words these words when referencing groups of people mean or hold different
affective in particular and connotations in general so why did he find it fit to do that as
well? Earlier quote on the page is that he “fly right now”. What does that mean if he
continues to make these racial distinctions? To take this a step further these words are
becoming interchangeable and if they are why continue to use the racial slur? The idea
that he is a black man can’t be the answer. I disagree with it as an answer.
a. “I heard the blues for the first time, sung in low moanful chants morning, noon
and night. The colored boys sang them in their cells and they sang them out in the
yard, where the work gangs massaged the coal piles.”
1. He claims that his parents almost succeeded with making him a respectable middle
classed citizen until he got in trouble with the law. From how I see it, whiteness is
inextricably tied into this. White folks were evading lawful prosecution from countries in
Europe particularly, they were original gangsters killing people and went to several world
wars over the right to make those laws. So this view is all types of wrong. Pre-holocaust
white folks came over and colonized regardless of religious affiliation. They condoned
shit like the Belgian holocaust which predates Hitler’s actions and served as a manual to
inform him of how to act in Germany.
2. He invokes racist stereotypes to distance himself i.e. “I wasn’t one of these…Nothing
like that.” And then appropriates that by saying he didn’t become what he was? I’m
confused. So you weren’t the stereotype and then you became close to it by not being the
ideal citizen? The greyness here of saying that he wasn’t a citizen nor a stereotype is
literally whiteness. Being able to be opague for privilege and benefit that he has listed
that he has achieved in the paragraphs above.
3. His gang was crazy – in my mind this nothing deviant from the original gangsters – i.e.
mob lynching which behaved in the same way, above the law and enacting their own
version of law when ever they saw fit to protect their claim to manhood.
a. His gang also disproves the idea that being Jew was a pious idea. Being a jew for
many people may have not been in print but Jewish people were perceived to do
hella things. I know hella jews who I would never knew they were jewish unless
they said that they were. Jewish as financially exploitative ( did he not profit
b. Christians were Christian as much as they were shooting and being racist.
c. “What I needed was the vocabulary. I was feeling my way to music like a baby
fights its way into talk.”
1See page 3.
2Page 4 “I’ve been in the stir and I’ve had my miseries, but all in all life’s been good to me. I fly right
now. ” 4. Car talk Pontiac 3
1. When he first heard the blues he claimed that he knows the Negro Philosophy more than
a textbook? P. 14
2. Stereotype of black people as always happy.
3. White people as the opposite but the question is that does this mean his roll would be to
take it out on somebody and is that somebody black.
4. Then he talks about the colored man – like are these different people.
a. The colored man doesn’t often get sullen and tight-lipped and evil because his
philosophy goes deeper and he thinks straight. Maybe he hasn’t got all the hyped-
up words and theories to explain ho