I begin with a nod to https://elfkat.wordpress.com/ for shining light on this story.
Woody Guthrie’s music epitomized struggles of the working class. The Great Depression, Dust Bowl, farm workers rights, trade unions, civil rights, social injustice – Guthrie became the voice of disenfranchised America. John Steinbeck wrote –
“Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people do not know he has any other name. He is just a voice and a guitar. He sings the songs of a people and I suspect that he is, in a way, that people. Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who still listen. There is the will of a people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit.” – John Steinbeck
Woody Guthrie’s life waits for a dedicated ponder ( for the curious, linked – a biography from woodyguthrie.org below ) – this ponder focuses on Guthrie and Donald’s father Fred Trump.
I’ll begin with a quote from Donald Trump –
“My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.”
Post war America faced a critical affordable housing shortage for scores of returning military. Enter the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) with loans and subsides to construct urban apartment blocks. Fred Trump was one of the first housing “project” developers to profit from free flowing federal financing. Fred Trump dubbed his project Beach Haven. Not only did Trump Sr. begin construction before the project was approved, he rented to veterans six months before he had to start repaying federal loans – pocketing an estimated 1.7 million dollars. He also pocketed a 5% “developers fee” and knowingly borrowed 3.7 million over and above construction costs. In 1954 Fred Trump was investigated by a Senate Committee for “profiteering off of public contracts”.
In 1950 Woody Guthrie signed a two year lease for a Beach Haven apartment in Brooklyn, New York. Within a year Guthrie agonized over residing in what he now referred to as Bitch Haven.He wrote –
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 ....
FHA guidelines included avoiding “inharmonious uses of housing” – translation, keep housing projects racially segregated. In 1979 Village Voice reporter Wayne Barrettt published a two part story on the Trump real estate empire. Included were excerpts from court cases filed against Trump between 1973-1979 by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In the story Barrett summarized evidence from Trump employees –
According to court records, four superintendents or rental agents confirmed that applications sent to the central [Trump] office for acceptance or rejection were coded by race. Three doormen were told to discourage blacks who came seeking apartments when the manager was out, either by claiming no vacancies or hiking up the rents. A super said he was instructed to send black applicants to the central office but to accept white applications on site. Another rental agent said that Fred Trump had instructed him not to rent to blacks. Further, the agent said Trump wanted “to decrease the number of black tenants” already in the development “by encouraging them to locate housing elsewhere.”
This is the legacy America’s Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is proud of?
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!- Woody Guthrie