Woody Guthrie’s landlord was Donald Trump’s dad


Woody Guthrie wrote a lot of songs that focused on the ugly racism he heard about and was witness to as he traveled from his childhood home of Oklahoma to New York City. As recounted by Will Kaufman, Professor of American Literature and Culture at University of Central Lancashire, protest songs like “The Ferguson Brothers Killing” and “The Buoy Bells from Trenton” proved that racial prejudice and white violence were not epidemics specific to the South. But it was his experience renting an apartment at “Beach Haven,” a massive public housing complex in New York owned by none other than the father of the current Republican presidential frontrunner, that would inspire some of Guthrie’s most vicious lines about the racist bigotry of housing codes.

Donald Trump proclaimed in 2015 that “my legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.” We’ve written about that legacy, drawing a direct line from Fred Trump’s arrest as a probable KKK member in 1927 to Donald’s very first New York Times headline, when he was accused of violating the Fair Housing Act in 1973. But Guthrie wrote of the Trump tradition of anti-black bias with firsthand knowledge more than half a century ago.

Beach Haven was funded by the Federal Housing Authority to provide homes for returning servicemen after World War II. Fred Trump was one of the first developers to make a fortune (passed on to Donald) constructing these buildings and later collecting rent on the units. He also embraced FHA guidelines that warned against “inharmonious uses of housing,” otherwise known as renting to blacks in predominantly white areas.

Beach Haven became one of these white neighborhoods, and Guthrie took to calling it “Bitch Havens” as soon as he realized what Trump was up to. The folksinger wrote songs, now preserved at the Woody Guthrie Archives in Tulsa, lambasting the real estate mogul for reinforcing the color lines that were wreaking havoc on black and minority communities across the country.

I suppose
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
Racial Hate
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project ….

Guthrie even wrote new lyrics to his Dust Bowl Ballad “I Ain’t Got No Home,” into a critique of “Old Man Trump’s” racism.

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!

As Donald Trump advocates banning Muslims from the country, beating up Black Lives Matter protesters, and “building a great wall” between the U.S. and Mexico, it might be prudent to examine the words of the man who wrote “this land was made for you and me,” and consider what he thought of Fred Trump and the legacy he’s passed on through his son.

[The Conversation]