In 1965, Charles Mingus performed “Don’t Let it Happen Here” at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Mingus embraced the political warning of Martin Niemöller, the German anti-Nazi theologian who spoke out against the Nazi regime, and proclaimed everyone’s right to freedom. “Don’t Let It Happen Here” was inspired by Niemöller’s poem “First they came…” Charles re-wrote Niemöller’s message:
“One day they came and they took the communists, and I said nothing because I was not a communist.
Then one day they came and they took the people of the Jewish faith, and I said nothing because I had no faith.
Then one day they came and took the unionists, and I said nothing because I was not a unionist.
They burned the Catholic churches one day, and I said nothing because I was a Protestant.
One day they came and they took me, and I could say nothing because I was as guilty as they were of genocide, destroying the rights of any man to live.”
– Charles Mingus
Don’t Let It Happen Here
The Monterey Jazz Festival stands in solidarity with the black community. We stand against racism, bigotry, and violence. We speak out as promoters of peace and social justice. We see you. We hear you. We raise your voice. We speak out in support of the Black community – this can no longer happen here.
The Charles Mingus Octet at the 8th Monterey Jazz Festival September 18, 1965
CHARLES MINGUS, bass
CHARLES McPHERSON, alto saxophone
JIMMY OWENS, LONNIE HILLYER, HOBART DOTSON, trumpets
GARNETT BROWN, trombone
HOWARD JOHNSON, tuba
DANNIE RICHMOND, drums
Photographs ©Jerry Stoll and MJF Archives