Woody Guthrie Wrote of His Contempt
for His Landlord, Donald Trump’s Father
More than a half-century ago, the folk singer Woody Guthrie signed a lease in an apartment complex in Brooklyn. He soon had bitter words for his landlord: Donald J. Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump.
Mr. Guthrie, in writings uncovered by a scholar working on a book, invoked “Old Man Trump” while suggesting that blacks were unwelcome as tenants in the Trump apartment complex, near Coney Island.
“He thought that Fred Trump was one who stirs up racial hate, and implicitly profits from it,” the scholar, Will Kaufman, a professor of American literature and culture at the University of Central Lancashire in Britain, said in an interview.
Mr. Kaufman said he came across Mr. Guthrie’s writings about Fred Trump while he was doing research at the Woody Guthrie Center’s archives in Oklahoma. He wrote about his findings last week for The Conversation, a news website.
In December 1950, Mr. Guthrie signed a lease at the Beach Haven apartment complex, Mr. Kaufman wrote in his piece. Soon, Mr. Guthrie was “lamenting the bigotry that pervaded his new, lily-white neighborhood,” he wrote, with words like these:
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
Mr. Guthrie even reworked his song “I Ain’t Got No Home” into a critique of Fred Trump, according to Mr. Kaufman:
Beach Haven ain’t my home!
I just can’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!
Mr. Guthrie died in 1967, and in the 1970s, the Justice Department sued the Trumps, accusing them of discriminating against blacks. (A settlement was eventually reached; at the time, Trump Management noted the agreement did not constitute an admission of guilt.)
A spokeswoman for Donald Trump declined to comment on Mr. Guthrie’s writings.
Mr. Kaufman, the author of “Woody Guthrie, American Radical,” said Mr. Guthrie would be repulsed by the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. He pointed to Mr. Trump’s comments about Mexicans and Muslims, and contrasted the candidate’s sentiments to those of Mr. Guthrie in his song “Deportee,” written about a plane crash that killed Mexican farm workers.
“Woody was always championing those who didn’t have a voice, who didn’t have any money, who didn’t have any power,” Mr. Kaufman said. “There’s no doubt that he would have had maximum contempt for Donald Trump, even without the issue of race.”
Woody would want you to vote. Be certain that you do and keep this family out of the White House.