Since we’re now embarking on the great national cleansing of our history, shouldn’t we question why a song authored by a notorious racist Communist and son of a Klansman was featured at a candlelight vigil to protest racism?
Hundreds of people gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia for a peaceful candlelight vigil and march just four days after racist violence erupted in the quiet college town.
Demonstrators at the event on Wednesday evening were heard singing ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’, ‘This Land Is Your Land’, and other songs during the emotional vigil paying tribute to Heather Heyer.
The 32-year-old paralegal died on Saturday after she was struck by a car driven by accused white supremacist James Fields while she was protesting a white-nationalist rally. Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio man, has been charged with her murder.
Photographs and videos from the scene on Wednesday night show hundreds of people standing side-by-side while holding candles in a show of unity.
Wait, did they say This Land Is Your Land? Well, we’ve got a problem with that so obviously this song should be banned.
Woody Guthrie is one of the most universally celebrated musical figures of the 20th century, and there’s been a gale of veneration accompanying the 100th anniversary of his birth tomorrow. This includes a weekend of tributes and events in his former ‘hood Echo Park, and the renaming of a public square downtown in his honor. Our feature this week, meanwhile, tells the story of his time in Los Angeles, pre-fame, through analysis of four unearthed singles that were recorded here.
But much of Guthrie’s story has been overlooked in our nation’s attempt to lionize him as a working-class crusader and political icon over the years. For starters, few know that his father was a Klansman. Pops was also an upper-middle class Okehma, Okla., politician and land speculator. Guthrie, then, learned to sing and play guitar by imitating blues records from the comfort of his bedroom, not around a migrant labor camp fire. Throw in a nasty racist streak (outlined below), and one can make the case that his public and political presentation was fake, a theatrical facade.
His reputation as a selfless crusader, outspoken Everyman and indefatigable defender of the little guy is an easily punctured myth; one only need to examine his innumerable biographies, which we reference with footnotes below.
For starters, Guthrie originally said he took up the harmonica after hearing a local African-American street performer named George, who kindly mentored him. That was a lie. Years later, he recanted, admitting he learned from a neighborhood peer, and that the bluesman never existed.*
Then there was the fact that Guthrie claimed joining the Communist party was the best thing he’d ever done, but, according to the FBI, he never actually became a card-carrying member.**
His famous “This Machine Kills Fascists” slogan on his guitar? Turns out that was a morale-boosting WWII government slogan printed on stickers that were handed out to defense plant workers — capitalist propaganda, if you will.
Yes, it gets worse:
But the most damning buried Guthrie biographical fact? That he was, just like his old man, a racist.
Having blacked up as a teenager in Okemah to perform a half-baked minstrel show, Guthrie while living in Echo Park took time out from championing oppressed white Okies to doodle his innumerable cartoons of what he described as “jungle blacks,” a group he also referred to as “niggers,” “darkies,” “chocolate drops” and, yes, “monkeys.”*
Read on if you’d like, but we think the case if obvious that this song must be banned, and oh, while we’re at it, we’ve got a statue here that quite clearly must come down by sunset today. Heck, all vestiges of Guthrie should be banned from here on, so you may want to get a screenshot of his words for posterity.
Meanwhile, can someone remove this statue please before people are literally shaking?
The best part of all this? The people singing his song have absolutely no clue of Guthrie’s history. Some in the media might, but most are too lazy (or stupid) to get the irony here.
Meanwhile, in one of their daily hitpieces on President Trump, the Washington Post uses this to paint Trump in a bad light while overlooking Guthrie’s own racist past.
For decades, the Trump real estate empire had been well known in Brooklyn and Queens as developments mainly for whites. In 1952, one of Trump’s tenants, the legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie, pushed back against the all-white nature of his 1,800-unit apartment complex by writing a song, “Old Man Trump,” that begins, “I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate he stirred up in that bloodpot of human hearts when he drawed that color line here at his Beach Haven family project.”
We know, shocking that the Washington Post would be either duplicitous or merely clueless.