Songwriter’s daughters blast Donald Trump for using lyrics to spread propaganda

Maggie and Africa Brown are sure their late father would not be pleased.

President Donald Trump leaves the stage after addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center February 23, 2018 in National Harbor, MD. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As if it’s not awkward enough to listen to President Donald Trump speak, imagine hearing him recite and misrepresent lyrics written by your late, Black activist father for his anti-immigrant agenda.

That’s exactly what happened when Maggie and Africa Brown were made aware that Trump quoted the lyrics to “The Snake,” a 1963 soul song first penned by their dad, Oscar Brown Jr.

Trump first used the lyrics in a 2016 campaign speech to smear immigrants, and again on Monday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“He’s twisting Oscar’s meaning to serve his own campaign and climate of intolerance and hate, which is the opposite of what the original author, Oscar Brown, Jr. intended,” said Maggie Brown during an interview on MSNBC.

“My father never stood against immigrants. He was always standing up for people, and not about separatism,” said Africa Brown. The sisters believe that Trump’s use of their father’s words are “an insult to the deep respect for humanity” that he represented.

Who was Oscar Brown, Jr.?

A Black activist, artist, and member of the Communist Part from Chicago, Brown wrote “The Snake” as a modern translation of the fable “The Farmer and the Viper.” It’s a warning that your kindness can be taken for granted, manipulated, and used against you.


In Trump’s most recent speech, he refers to it as a “rock and roll song” and reads it as a sort of bedtime story to his audience. Each time, he’s used it in reference to immigrants, comparing them to the snakes in the story, who are wholesomely welcomed into America only to then attack that hand that feeds them. 

“And you have to think of this in terms of immigration,” Trump said on February 23. “We have to have great people to come into our country and I want people that are going to help us.”

The lyrics that Trump chose to recite are as follows:

“‘I saved you, cried the woman and you’ve bitten me. Heaven’s why? / You know your bite is poisonous, and now I’m going to die./ Oh, shut up silly woman, said the reptile with a grin./ You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”


Maggie Brown sees the whole thing as ironic, noting that the most obvious difference between Trump and her father is that her dad didn’t believe in the use of firearms.

“He was against guns in the schools… or any of this stuff Donald Trump stands for,” she added. “That is super insulting.”