The Beatles Against Segregation

On September 11, 1964 The Beatles were set to play a concert at Jacksonville, Florida’s Gator Bowl. A controversial performance for several reasons, one being that The Beatles were due to arrive in Jacksonville on the 9th, when the plane was swiftly rerouted to Key West to avoid a collision with hurricane Dora. The already rocky start to their trip led to a loss of electricity to the surrounding area’s and winds so high that Ringo Starr’s drum kit had to be nailed to the stage in hopes that it wouldn’t fly away. Intense? I’d say so. Funnily enough the drastic weather and extreme conditions were not the culprit for creating such a memorable show, it was instead the band’s decision to make a prominent stance on one of 1960’s America’s most controversial issues.

1964 was the year of The Beatles first tour and true introduction to the United States. Commonly viewed as a teen pop band thats expected longevity was brief and passing, The Beatles weren’t perceived as much more than a foreign bubble gum success that was due to ride the popular music wave. Though initally completely underrated, The Beatles impressed American’s with a steady stream of hits and an alarming influence over teenaged girls, so much so that the term “Beatlemania” is now a common and understand word. Quick witted and intelligent, The Beatles were set to be nobodies fools.

A few weeks prior to the Gatorbowl performance, the fab four caught wind about the intended segregation between blacks and whites brought forth by the Jacksonville venue.  Despite that recent passage of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Gatorbowl staff were determined to follow through with their intent for segregated audiences. Appalled by the racist sentiment, The Beatles refused to play until the promoters and local officials  agreed to desegregate the audience and treat all races that same. John Lennon was quoted, “We never play to segregated audiences and we aren’t going to start now…I’d sooner lose our appearance money.”

Despite hostility from the local press, the officials eventually backed down and the concert went forth without the segregation that was initially planned. The boys also refused residents at a segregated Jacksonville hotel and instead laid their tired heads at a desegregated establishment the evening following their performance. During the following year, when The Beatles toured throughout the US, they had written explicityly into their contracts that they would not preform at any segregated show or venue, keeping true to their beliefs and morals.

What is most striking about The Beatles stance, was that they were a foreign band, in unfamiliar territory, surround by a time of racial prejudice and injustice, and were unashamed and unafraid to speak their minds and stand tall on such a heated and controversial issue. The Beatles risked their popularity and image for an affair that did not personally effect white males, exposing the fab four as a group of young Liverpoolian’s who’s existence was far from meaningless and extremely impressionable.

Remaining opinionated and motivated by human rights throughout their entire career, The Beatles never swayed from their 1964 beliefs. Paul McCartney would eventually go on to write “Blackbird,” paying homage to the struggle black people endured throughout the 1960’s civil rights movement. Though possibly unaware at the time, The Beatles stance at the Gatorbowl was a progressive and inspirational moment throughout music and pop culture history.

–Victoria Shaffer


“1964, Civil Rights – and the Beatles?” The Greenlining Institute, 11 Sept. 2013,
Joe. “Live: Gator Bowl, Jacksonville.” The Beatles Bible, The Beatles Bible, 13 Oct. 2017,

26 thoughts on “The Beatles Against Segregation

  1. “We never play to segregated audiences and we aren’t going to start now…I’d sooner lose our appearance money.” Way to go John!! I know they did this in America, but I wonder what opinions they affected in England as well. The US was racist, but England also had discrimination against Indians, Pakistanis, Jamaicans, etc.

    Great post! Long live the Beatles’ spirit 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! If I am not mistaken, while the US had its segregation as actual written laws, the UK probably had it more as a social stigma. So maybe they were not faced with a legal dilemma. Love your posts!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. If my memory serves me correctly, they touched on this in Ron Howard’s film 8 Days A Week. It was something I wasn’t aware of, and went away to research about it. Thanks for reminding me about it again Victoria.

    Liked by 2 people

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