Did You Know?
The Beatles showed their support for the US civil rights movement by refusing to play in concerts where audiences were segregated.
The Beatles, on their first-ever U.S. concert tour, were astonished to find that the Jacksonville, Florida Gator Bowl where they’d been booked to play was racially segregated — despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 earlier that summer. That’s when the band did something rather nervy for a bunch of foreigners playing in the U.S. for the first time (and who, it should be remembered, were widely thought to be just another teen sensation who’d be forgotten in a year or two, not the cultural icons they later became):
They refused to play until the promoters and local officials agreed to desegregate the stadium and treat all races the same. “We never play to segregated audiences and we aren’t going to start now,” said John Lennon at the time. “I’d sooner lose our appearance money.” The band also refused to stay at a segregated hotel. And instead of handling it quietly behind the scenes, the band put out a press statement saying, “We will not appear unless Negroes are allowed to sit anywhere.”
That drew some hostility from the local press, but officials backed down and the concert went on as scheduled on Sept. 11, 1964.
When they returned for another U.S. tour the following year, the Beatles took no chances. They had it written into their contract that they would “not be required to perform in front of a segregated audience.”