The Woody Guthrie Center is dedicated to the work of one of the nation’s greatest folk singers and most influential songwriters. Born in Oklahoma, Woody Guthrie is best known for the ballad, “This Land Is Your Land,” which some people consider an alternative national anthem. But Guthrie penned hundreds of other songs, too, and one of them was about Trump’s father, Fred Trump.
In 1950, Trump’s father was Guthrie’s landlord in Brooklyn. Guthrie didn’t think much of Fred Trump when he wrote these unrecorded and unpublished lyrics, which were found in the Guthrie Center’s archives in 2016 by Will Kaufman, a professor of American culture at the University of Central Lancashire in Great Britain.
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project …
The Trump development was called Beach Haven, a public-housing project for veterans built with federal loans. As a Merchant Marine, Guthrie qualified to live there.
A year into his stay, though, Guthrie began to understand that the curiously all-white neighborhood was by design. In the archive, Kaufman found notebooks Guthrie filled with what he wished the place had been, a community where “a face of every bright color laffing and joshing in these old darkly weeperish empty shadowed windows.”
Guthrie moved out two years later, not long before Trump was investigated by a U.S. Senate committee in 1954 for profiteering off the public contracts for that development.
More than 20 years later, Trump was accused of racial discrimination by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department in the design of Beach Haven. The Trump organization had an elaborate, coded system for housing applicants to prevent black veterans from becoming tenants, the Justice Department alleged in a case that was eventually settled.
Guthrie restyled his Dust Bowl ballad “Ain’t Got No Home” into an indictment against the Trump property, lyrics Kaufman also found in those Tulsa archives:
Beach Haven ain't my home!
I just cain't pay this rent!
My money's down the drain!
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven looks like heaven
Where no black ones come to roam!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!
Guthrie’s protest songs live today as appropriate counters to President Trump, who has been accused of racism again and again.
“Donald did inherit his father’s racism, and was probably actively coached in his father’s racism, and worked with his father to perpetuate it,” Kaufman told The Washington Post in 2016.
Guthrie has something else in common with President Trump.
His father, Charles Guthrie, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma and was probably part of a horrific lynching in 1911 of Laura and L.D. Nelson, which happened off a bridge seven miles southwest of Okemah, Okla.
Trump’s dad also had a connection to the Ku Klux Klan. The New York Times in 1927 reported that Fred Trump was arrested at a Klan rally in Jamaica, Queens.
Now, Trump will deliver a campaign speech in Tulsa, the site of a 1921 race massacre that’s considered one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history.
There probably won’t be any Woody Guthrie songs played at the arena.
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