How Woody Guthrie felt about the racist housing practices of “Old Man Trump”—his landlord!

Woody Guthrie lived in Fred Trump’s Beach Haven apartment complex for two years


Disclosure statement

Will Kaufman received funding from the Broadcast Music Industry Foundation (BMI-Woody Guthrie Fellowship).

The Conversation is funded by Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Knight Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Alfred P Sloan Foundation, Rita Allen Foundation and the Simons Foundation. Our global publishing platform is funded by Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

In December 1950, Woody Guthrie signed his name to the lease of a new apartment in Brooklyn. Even now, over half a century later, that uninspiring document prompts a double-take.

Below all the legal jargon is the signature of the man who had composed “This Land Is Your Land,” the most resounding appeal to an equal share for all in America. Below that is the signature of Donald Trump’s father, Fred. No pairing could appear more unlikely.

Guthrie’s two-year tenancy in one of Fred Trump’s buildings and his relationship with the real estate mogul of New York’s outer boroughs produced some of Guthrie’s most bitter writings, which I discovered on a recent trip to the Woody Guthrie Archives in Tulsa. These writings have never before been published; they should be, for they clearly pit America’s national balladeer against the racist foundations of the Trump real estate empire.

Recalling these foundations becomes all the more relevant in the wake of the racially charged proclamations of Donald Trump, who last year announced, “My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.”


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