Abbey Lincoln: A Woman Speaking Her Mind

Some Autobiographical Details

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: Go back to high school. When did you decide to leave Michigan and how did that happen? We’ve never talked about that.

ABBEY LINCOLN: I didn’t decide to leave. My mother decided to come to Kalamazoo. She and my father were divorced. And she brought us to Kalamazoo, where I went to high school with my brother and sister. It’s not anything I want to talk about. Kalamazoo’s a long time ago! [laughs]

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: When you graduated from high school, did you stay or did you go?

ABBEY LINCOLN: No, when I graduated I came to Jackson, Michigan through this minister and started to work in Jackson, Michigan with a band. So I didn’t do this all on my own. There was always somebody to help me to do what I do.

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: And then from Jackson, was that Honolulu next?

ABBEY LINCOLN: My brother came to Kalamazoo to see my mother for Mother’s Day and brought me back with him to California.

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: Where in California?

ABBEY LINCOLN: I don’t want to go through all of that.

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: Okay.

ABBEY LINCOLN: Really I don’t! It’s autobiographical. I’ve written about it. Yeah. California. When Watts was a beautiful place to live. There was a red car that went from Central Avenue, from Watts to downtown. I did not live, I have not lived a tragic life. I’m one of the privileged ones that came from the royal man and woman. And so are my sisters and brothers. They all know how to live here and take care of themselves. And none of us have ever been in jail. We’re not junkies and we’re not whores.

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: I know that.

ABBEY LINCOLN: Yeah. That’s where I got it. I’m made at home. I didn’t have to figure it out and on my way through with my career, on my way through life, I stood where I was given to stand. It serves me.