The Beatles played a key role in helping to stamp out racial segregation in the US, a new documentary reveals.
Contracts unearthed from their earliest US tours in the 1960s show that John, Paul, George and Ringo were the first foreign group to refuse to perform at “whites only” venues.
At one concert – exactly 52 years ago today – they forced organisers to allow black and white fans to mingle after threatening to boycott the gig.
John Lennon was so furious when he discovered that the Gator Bowl stadium in Jacksonville, Florida would be racially segregated that he issued a press statement saying the group would not appear unless black fans were allowed to sit where they liked.
He added: “We never play to segregated audiences and we aren’t going to start now. I’d sooner lose our appearance money.”
Concert promoters quickly capitulated. The long-forgotten contracts were discovered by researchers working on The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years.
The film, which hits UK cinemas this week, follows the band from Liverpool’s Cavern Club in 1962 to their final concert at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, in 1966.
When they first arrived in the US in February 1964, many states still supported segregation and even famous black entertainers such as Sammy Davis Jr. were banned from white dressing rooms, bathrooms and bars. Sir Paul McCartney, now 74, said he was “amazed” by the discovery of the contracts.
He added: “We had loads of black friends and many of our musical heroes were black. “To see in the film that we’d actually put it in our contracts – we didn’t remember that.
“I was very impressed with that. It was very cool.”
The film’s director Ron Howard, said: “What they did with those contracts was really courageous stuff at that time.”