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Was Fred Trump (Donald’s Father) in the Ku Klux Klan?

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ku klux klanCOMMENT: Ear­li­er this year, a con­tro­ver­sy emerged when old news­pa­per arti­cles about arrests at a 1927 Klan ral­ly in Queens (New York City) men­tioned a “Fred Trump” as among the “ber­obed marchers” arrest­ed at the event.

Although the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Trump’s father as one of the Klan par­tic­i­pants has not been defin­i­tive­ly estab­lished, The Don­ald lied when con­front­ed with the address of the arrest­ed Fred Trump. 

” . . . . asked if his father had lived at 175–24 Devon­shire Road—the address list­ed for the Fred Trump arrest­ed at the 1927 Klan rally—Donald dis­missed the claim as “total­ly false.”

“We lived on Ware­ham,” he told Horowitz. “The Devonshire—I know there is a road ‘Devon­shire,’ but I don’t think my father ever lived on Devon­shire.” Trump went on to deny every­thing else in the Times’ account of the 1927 ral­ly: “It shouldn’t be writ­ten because it nev­er hap­pened, num­ber one. And num­ber two, there was nobody charged.”

Bio­graph­i­cal records con­firm that the Trump fam­i­ly did live on Ware­ham Place in Queens in the 1940s, when Don­ald was a kid. But accord­ing to at least one archived news­pa­per clip, Fred Trump also lived at 175–24 Devon­shire Road: A wed­ding announce­ment in the Jan­u­ary 22, 1936 issue of the Long Island Dai­ly Press, places Fred Trump at that address, and refers to his wife as “Mary MacLeod,” which is Don­ald Trump’s mother’s maid­en name. . . .”

It seems alto­geth­er prob­a­ble that The Don­ald’s father was the “Fred Trump” arrest­ed at the ral­ly for “fail­ing to dis­perse,” but Fred Trump’s spe­cif­ic activ­i­ties at the Klan Ral­ly have not been estab­lished.

In the con­text of assess­ing the deep pol­i­tics sur­round­ing Trump, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of Klan par­tic­i­pa­tion by his father is inter­est­ing and pos­si­bly rel­e­vant. In Under Cov­er (avail­able for down­load for free on this web­site), the exten­sive net­work­ing between dom­i­nant ele­ments of the KKK and var­i­ous Fifth Col­umn orga­ni­za­tions in this coun­try is cov­ered at length.

One of those Fifth Col­umn orga­ni­za­tions is Amer­i­ca First, which received fund­ing from Nazi Ger­many. Trump has appro­pri­at­ed that name.

Also of inter­est in the con­text of the “Fred Trump” arrest­ed at the Klan Ral­ly is the fact that David Duke has been an enthu­si­as­tic sup­port­er of Trump, who was alto­geth­er hes­i­tant about dis­avow­ing Duke’s sup­port.

All the Evi­dence We Could Find About Fred Trump’s Alleged Involve­ment with the KKK” by Mike Pearl; Vice News; 3/9/2016.

Late last month, in an inter­view with Repub­li­can fron­trun­ner Don­ald Trump, CNN host Jake Tap­per asked the can­di­date whether he would dis­avow an endorse­ment from long­time Ku Klux Klan leader and white nation­al­ist celebri­ty David Duke. Trump declined. “I don’t know any­thing about David Duke,” he said. Moments lat­er, he added, “I know noth­ing about white suprema­cists.”

Trump has since walked back his com­ments, blam­ing his hes­i­tance to con­demn the Klan on a “bad ear­piece.” The mat­ter has now been filed away into the ever-grow­ing archives of volatile state­ments Trump has made about race and eth­nic­i­ty dur­ing the cur­rent elec­tion cycle—a list that includes kick­ing off his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign by call­ing Mex­i­cans rapists, call­ing for the “‘total and com­plete shut­down of Mus­lims enter­ing the Unit­ed States,” and com­ment­ing that per­haps a Black Lives Mat­ter pro­test­er at one of his ral­lies “should have been roughed up.”

But the par­tic­u­lars of the David Duke inci­dent call to mind yet anoth­er news sto­ry, one that sug­gests that Trump’s father, the late New York real estate titan Fred Trump, once wore the robe and hood of a Klans­man.

Ver­sions of this sto­ry emerged last Sep­tem­ber when Boing Boing dug up an old New York Times arti­cle from May of 1927 that list­ed a Fred Trump among those arrest­ed at a Klan ral­ly in Jamaica, Queens, when “1,000 Klans­men and 100 police­men staged a free-for-all,” in the streets. Don­ald Trump’s father would have been 21 in 1927 and had spent most of his life in Queens.

As Boing Boing point­ed out, the Times account sim­ply names Fred Trump as one of the sev­en indi­vid­u­als arrest­ed at the ral­ly, and it states that he was released with­out charges, leav­ing room for the pos­si­bil­i­ty that he “may have been an inno­cent bystander, false­ly named, or oth­er­wise the vic­tim of mis­tak­en iden­ti­ty dur­ing or fol­low­ing a chaot­ic event.”

A few weeks after Boing Boing unearthed that 88-year-old scoop, the New York Times asked Don­ald Trump about the pos­si­bil­i­ty that his father had been arrest­ed at a Klan event. The younger Trump denied it all, telling inter­view­er Jason Horowitz that “it nev­er hap­pened” four times. When Horowitz asked if his father had lived at 175–24 Devon­shire Road—the address list­ed for the Fred Trump arrest­ed at the 1927 Klan rally—Donald dis­missed the claim as “total­ly false.”

“We lived on Ware­ham,” he told Horowitz. “The Devonshire—I know there is a road ‘Devon­shire,’ but I don’t think my father ever lived on Devon­shire.” Trump went on to deny every­thing else in the Times’ account of the 1927 ral­ly: “It shouldn’t be writ­ten because it nev­er hap­pened, num­ber one. And num­ber two, there was nobody charged.”

Bio­graph­i­cal records con­firm that the Trump fam­i­ly did live on Ware­ham Place in Queens in the 1940s, when Don­ald was a kid. But accord­ing to at least one archived news­pa­per clip, Fred Trump also lived at 175–24 Devon­shire Road: A wed­ding announce­ment in the Jan­u­ary 22, 1936 issue of the Long Island Dai­ly Press, places Fred Trump at that address, and refers to his wife as “Mary MacLeod,” which is Don­ald Trump’s mother’s maid­en name.

More­over, three addi­tion­al news­pa­per clips unearthed by VICE con­tain sep­a­rate accounts of Fred Trump’s arrest at the May 1927 KKK ral­ly in Queens, each of which seems to con­firm the Times account of the events that day. While the clips don’t con­firm whether Fred Trump was actu­al­ly a mem­ber of the Klan, they do sug­gest that the rally—and the sub­se­quent arrests—did hap­pen, and did involve Don­ald Trump’s father, con­trary to the candidate’s denials. A fifth arti­cle men­tions the sev­en arrestees with­out giv­ing names, and claims that all of the indi­vid­u­als arrested—presumably includ­ing Trump—were wearing Klan attire.

The June 1, 1927, account of the May 31 Klan ral­ly print­ed in a defunct Brook­lyn paper called the Dai­ly Star spec­i­fies that a Fred Trump “was dis­missed on a charge of refus­ing to dis­perse.” That arti­cle lists sev­en total arrests, and states that four of those arrest­ed were expect­ed to go to court, and two were paroled. Fred Trump was the only one not held on charges.

The Klan’s reac­tion to the alleged police bru­tal­i­ty at the ral­ly was the sub­ject of anoth­er arti­cle, pub­lished in the Queens Coun­ty Evening News on June 2, 1927, and titled “Klan Plac­ards Assail Police, As War Vets Seek Parade Con­trol.” The piece is main­ly about the Klan dis­trib­ut­ing leaflets about being “assault­ed” by the “Roman Catholic police of New York City” at that same ral­ly. The arti­cle men­tions Fred Trump as hav­ing been “dis­charged” and gives the Devon­shire Road address, along with the names and address­es of the oth­er six men who faced charges.

Yet anoth­er account in anoth­er defunct local news­pa­per, the Rich­mond Hill Record, pub­lished on June 3, 1927, lists Fred Trump as one of the “Klan Arrests,” and also lists the Devon­shire Road address.

Anoth­er arti­cle about the ral­ly, pub­lished by the Long Island Dai­ly Press on June 2, 1927, men­tions that there were sev­en arrestees with­out list­ing names, and claims that all of the indi­vid­u­als arrest­ed were wear­ing Klan attire. The sto­ry, titled “Meet­ing on Parade Is Called Off,” focus­es on the police actions at the ral­ly, not­ing crit­i­cism of the cops for bru­tal­ly lash­ing out at the Klan sup­port­ers, who had assem­bled dur­ing a Memo­r­i­al Day parade.

While the Long Island Dai­ly Press doesn’t men­tion Fred Trump specif­i­cal­ly, the num­ber of arrestees cit­ed in the report is con­sis­tent with the oth­er accounts of the ral­ly. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, the arti­cle refers to all of the arrestees as “ber­obed marchers.” If Fred Trump, or anoth­er one of the atten­dees, wasn’t dressed in a robe at the time, that may have been a report­ing error worth cor­rect­ing.

Accord­ing to Rory McVeigh, chair­man of the soci­ol­o­gy depart­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame, the ver­sion of the Klan that would have been active in Queens dur­ing the 1920s may not have nec­es­sar­i­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in stereo­typ­i­cal KKK activ­i­ties like fiery cross­es and lynch mobs.

“The Klan that became very pop­u­lar in the ear­ly 1920s did advo­cate white suprema­cy like the orig­i­nal Klan,” McVeigh told VICE in an email. “But in that respect, [its views were] not too much dif­fer­ent from a lot of oth­er white Amer­i­cans of that time peri­od.” In New York, McVeigh added, “the organization’s oppo­si­tion to immi­gra­tion and Catholics prob­a­bly held the biggest appeal for most of the peo­ple who joined.”

None of the arti­cles prove that Fred Trump was a mem­ber of the Klan, and it’s pos­si­ble that he was, as Boing Boing sug­gest­ed, just a bystander at the ral­ly. But while Don­ald Trump is absolute­ly right to say that his father was not charged in the 1927 inci­dent, the candidate’s oth­er claims—that Fred Trump nev­er lived at 175–24 Devon­shire Road, and more impor­tant­ly, that his involve­ment in a Klan ral­ly “nev­er happened”—appear to be untrue.

The Trump cam­paign did not respond to mul­ti­ple requests for com­ment. . . .

Discussion

One comment for “Was Fred Trump (Donald’s Father) in the Ku Klux Klan?”

  1. Don­ald Trump’s dad was Woody Guthrie’s racist land­lord
    And Guthrie wrote a song about Fred Trump
    July 22, 2016
    by Joe Blevins
    http://www.avclub.com/article/read-donald-trumps-dad-was-woody-guthries-racist-l-239966

    Since self-mythol­o­giz­ing is a key part of Don­ald Trump’s brand, it is a near-cer­tain­ty that the pub­lic will be hear­ing a few glow­ing anec­dotes about the sup­posed great­ness of the GOP candidate’s father, Fred, between now and Novem­ber. But there is one chap­ter of this sto­ry that Trump is bound to skip right past, even though it denies him the oppor­tu­ni­ty to drop a famous name from Amer­i­can his­to­ry. It seems that, for two years start­ing in Decem­ber 1950, the elder Trump was the Brook­lyn land­lord of leg­endary folksinger and rab­ble rouser Woody Guthrie. Con­se­quence Of Sound’s Collin Bren­nan has writ­ten an eye-open­ing piece about the “oft-con­tentious rela­tion­ship” that exist­ed between these two men. Since Guthrie’s whole deal was cham­pi­oning the dis­ad­van­taged and dis­en­fran­chised, strum­ming protest songs on a gui­tar bear­ing a “This Machine Kills Fas­cists” stick­er, it is not sur­pris­ing that he and the Trump fam­i­ly would not get along. But what is sur­pris­ing is that Trump’s father actu­al­ly mer­it­ed men­tion in Guthrie’s note­books.

    Lots of peo­ple have griev­ances against their land­lords, but Guthrie’s main point of con­tention with Trump’s father was the latter’s sys­temic racism. The singer of “This Land Is Your Land” was liv­ing at the time in one of Trump’s fed­er­al­ly sub­si­dized hous­ing projects, a place euphemisti­cal­ly called “Beach Haven.” If noth­ing else, that name reflects the Trump family’s knack for mar­ket­ing. After sign­ing the lease, how­ev­er, the singer was incensed to learn that his land­lord was tak­ing advan­tage of Fed­er­al Hous­ing Author­i­ty guide­lines that allowed real estate devel­op­ers to keep black peo­ple out of such dwellings. He wrote about his frus­tra­tions in a poem enti­tled “Old Man Trump.” To wit: “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 ...”

    All that remains to be done now is for some mod­ern-day gui­tar-pick­er to put Guthrie’s 66-year-old poem to music and per­form it out­side every Trump cam­paign event for the next four months. Inter­est­ing­ly, “riot folk” artist Ryan Har­vey has teamed with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morel­lo and Ani DiFran­co to record a new ver­sion of “Old Man Trump.” Check it out….

    http://americansongwriter.com/2016/06/artists-cover-woody-guthries-lament-old-man-trump/

    2016 isn’t the only year musi­cians have sung out against “Old Man Trump.” A some­what-buried Woody Guthrie track by the same name, writ­ten in out­rage more than 60 years ago against the pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nominee’s father, Fred Trump, laments the big­otry and injus­tice of Trump’s hous­ing projects, Beach Haven, in which Guthrie leased an apart­ment. Now, riot folk singer Ryan Har­vey has teamed up with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morel­lo and Ani DiFran­co to cov­er Guthrie’s “Old Man Trump.”

    Guthrie’s lyrics make his posi­tion on “Old Man Trump” clear:

    “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”

    The folk leg­end even invokes the apart­ment by name, singing:

    “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!”

    Posted by Mother Muckraker | July 30, 2016, 7:15 am

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