Politically Correct Fourth Graders

It looks like good ole’ white Southern/Confederate values are being assaulted on all sides by the politically correct.  This time the culprits are fourth graders from Glen Burnie, Maryland who were put off by the lyrics in their state’s song, “Maryland, My Maryland”.  They took action like any responsible citizen and wrote their state representative and while it is impossible to know from this short article, the state legislature is now considering a bill to alter the lyrics.  Feel free to sing along:

The despot’s heel is on thy shore,
Maryland, My Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Dear Mother! burst the tyrant’s chain,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Virginia should not call in vain!
Maryland, My Maryland!
She meets her sisters on the plain-
“Sic semper!” ’tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
Maryland, My Maryland!
The Old Line’s bugle, fife, and drum,
Maryland, My Maryland!
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she’ll come! she’ll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

In response, Jane Durden, the president general of the Daughters of the Confederacy, said, “I hate it when parts of our history are pushed aside for political correctness.”  Exactly whose history is Ms. Durden referring to here?  Where is Mildred Rutherfod when you need her?  Damn kids!

63 thoughts on “Politically Correct Fourth Graders

  1. Sherree Tannen

    Good for the children! Interesting that the tune is “O Tannenbaum” too. Remarkably terrible state anthem through and through. It seems that many are. I will have to check this, Kevin, but I think that Georgia withdrew its old Confederate state anthem, and replaced it with “Georgia on my mind” and that Ray Charles was there for the dedication of the song. Again, I will have to verify this.

    Reply
  2. Sherree Tannen

    Kevin,

    From the information I have accessed, “Georgia on My Mind” is the state anthem of Georgia, and Ray Charles did perform the song for the state legislature, which was a major milestone, in so many ways, and a wonderful tribute to one of America’s foremost musical geniuses. (I grew up listening to Ray Charles, so I have to reveal a bias ) Georgia is still not with the program, though, it looks like. Here is a link to an article about the state flag:

    ontheotherhandcolumn.blogspot.com/2008/03/…

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Thanks Sherree. If I remember correctly, the movie “Ray” ends with the adoption of the song as the state’s anthem. :)

      Reply
  3. Sherree Tannen

    You’re welcome, Kevin. Also, I think you are right about how the movie “Ray” ends. I truly love Ray Charles. Guess you can’t tell, huh? lol (I am trying to find some smiley faces to download so that I can quit using “lol”. A friend of mine who is Ojibway told me when he first saw “lol used by a mutual Cree friend, that he thought “lol” was a new Cree word….Oh lol,,,,,)

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  4. John Cummings

    Offended are they by the line “Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!” ? And you now label that line as “good ole’ white Southern/Confederate values” ? I think perhaps your imagination has opted to exaggerate a bit. Consider the following line from another anthem: “Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.” You’ll probably Google that one because you’ve most likely never thought to consider it. Perhaps this needs to be rewritten as well? Think long and hard on that one before replying.
    In considering the mindset of Marylanders in 1861 you may want to inform your class about the parallels that can (and should be) drawn between Lincoln’s arrest of 3,000 Maryland community leaders and his eventual suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, to the actions of our former presidential administration in the name of national security. Looking at things through politically correct glasses can sometimes get confusing especially if things are not weighed equally but only as they effect to the current application.
    It is appalling how nearly one hundred and fifty years later we have to reopen wounds and rub salt in them. All the progress made in racial harmony since the 1960′s is cast asunder when you and others continue to reexamine the “late unpleasantness” as though the chasm is freshly cut. Not a single slave or slave owner is alive today. The longer we continue to look at our “history” as though it is our current situation the longer we will cripple our ability to advance. Please don’t destroy what the Civil Rights Movement accomplished by acting as though we are still crippled by Jim Crow. Study history, teach history and appreciate it, but please recognize where to draw the line with what is past.

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  5. Sherree Tannen

    Kevin,

    I am not certain what point the previous two readers are attempting to make, but a brief search of state anthems and the national anthem does reveal some interesting facts, and would make a great project for an enterprising student with time to really study this topic. Most of the anthems are poorly written and shallow in content. They also reveal truly outmoded ways of thinking and should be revisited and revised, or replaced, in some instances, in my opinion. “Yankee Doodle”, the Connecticut state anthem, is a dandy. “My Old Kentucky Home”, the state anthem of Kentucky is another jewel. “Old Folks at Home”, the state song of Florida, shows a very interesting cross section of intersecting historical moments and realities. The song (better known as “Way Down on the Swanee River”) was written in 1851 by Stephen Foster, and was to be performed by the New York minstrel troupe known as the “Christy minstrels”. Foster apparently supported the Union during the Civil War, as well as black men and women. Why he would write a song like this is a mystery Perhaps it reveals the divide, in that time period, between the idea of ending slavery and the persistent racism that existed in spite of that idea for some, and that was outside of the purview of that idea, as you have discussed before. I honestly don’t know. At any rate, the governor of Florida trumped the entire matter by not allowing the state song to be sung at a fairly recent event, and by supplanting the song with one written by a black man who is a current resident of Florida and a very talented musician. That shows a lot of class on the part of Crist. My favorite one by far, though, is New Jersey. The state of New Jersey does not have an official state anthem. It does have an unofficial one, however: “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. Long live the Boss!

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  6. Kevin Levin Post author

    John,

    I make no apologies for my intellectual curiosities about how we have chosen to remember our past. It sounds like you are the one who is uncomfortable and that, in the end, is your problem. I’m not quite sure you understand my interest in the past so I will refrain from responding to your assumptions about how I view our progress as a nation on racial matters. I will say that I find your final thought re: the drawing of a line with what is past as very important. After all, this story out of Maryland suggests that the past is very much still with us.

    Richard,

    I look forward to your post.

    Reply
  7. Nick Fry

    You know, as a Maryland resident, I like these new lyrics. Nice work kids! Too bad it won’t be in place in time for this year’s Preakness. (which is the only time the song is heard by a national audience, at they stop after the 2nd stanza)

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  8. Jarret Ruminski

    Hmm, as far as arresting community leaders, newspaper printers, suspending habeas corpus and locking up “disloyal” citizens, yes, Lincoln did that. But so did Jefferson Davis.

    This post once again reveals how many Americans have this strong desire to look to the Confedracy as the great “could-have-been.” To people like the Daughters of the Confederacy and other like-minded romantics, the Confederacy seems to represent everything and anhthing they think the United States should have been or should be. The actual historical nuances of the Confederacy, especially its massive (and quite impressive) government centralization matter little when all you want is an imaginary paradise of agrarian chivalry and “small government, whatever the heck that means anymore.

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  9. Craig the Marker Hunter

    I’m sorry I find the changing of lyrics funny. But somewhat troubling. Sort of goes back to my remark about the editing of historical markers, and we should treat these as artifacts. “Maryland, my Maryland” was somewhat of a soldier’s song, and for anyone interested in the lives, motivations, sentiment, or just “soldiering” of those men, it’s an artifact to be studied and interpreted. But in the case of a song, well at least the lyrics are written down for later interpretation. But since we are there…

    Should we ask that any reference to “Aura Lee” be changed to “Love me Tender?” Can’t have those illusions to the “Maid with the Golden Hair” right?

    Those who’ve served with the 3rd Infantry Division are very familiar with the “Dog Faced Soldier.” Those who have not had the pleasure, the song is used in the movie “To Hell and Back” staring and about Audie Murphy. Great song, from the World War II era, and somewhat timeless in the expression of common soldier sentiments. But there was this one line:
    “…And I eat a Kraut for breakfast every day….”

    Well if I have to draw you a picture of what that really meant, then maybe we need to return to basics. As one might imagine, with the 3rd ID stationed in post war Germany in around 1960, those lyrics had to get a whitewash, lest it be seen as overtly anti-German in the Cold War environment. Thus the lyrics switched to:
    “…And I eat raw meat for breakfast every day….”

    Well at least a little more catchy. Still that probably offends the vegetarian crowd. No doubt that DoD will change to some line about carrot sticks or tofu at some point in the future.

    Ok, that’s enough for the history lesson on soldier songs…. I’m putting the headphones on again…. ah…. “Lili Marleen!”

    Craig

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  10. Kevin Levin Post author

    Craig,

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you. It’s a slippery slope once you start knocking down things or changing the names of buildings. We should try to understand our public historic sites rather than push the away from the public view. At the same time, it is inevitable that some changes will be made given the political nature of remembrance. As far as I am concerned it is up to the community in question to decide how they want their public spaces to be used or which song best reflects their values.

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  11. Sherree Tannen

    “After all, this story out of Maryland suggests that the past is very much still with us. ”

    Hi again Kevin,

    Yes indeed it does. On closer inspection, the lyrics of the state songs for Florida and Kentucky are blatantly racist. They need to go. (Foster wrote the Kentucky anthem, too) No black man or woman should be subjected to the type of sentiments that are expressed in these two songs, particularly not as sanctioned by state governments. The state song of Maryland speaks for itself. Again, good for the children. Or as my mother used to say: “Listen to the little ones. They know the truth.”

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  12. Mark Snell

    Kevin,

    I sing (God forbid) the first verse of this song in my Civil War course at Shepherd University during the lesson when we discuss the dilemma of the Upper South in 1861. Since we are located directly across the Potomac from Maryland, I normally have quite a few Maryland residents in my class. Even they are appalled when they finally figure out that the “despot” is Abraham Lincoln/the Northern “hordes”. It is hard for modern college students to understand how a state government (and normally quite a liberal one at that) could continue to allow such archaic lyrics in its state song. I do agree with John that Lincoln was forced to take drastic measures to keep Maryland in the Union (what else could he do?), but why 21st century Marylanders would want to remember that episode in its state song—where Marylanders would fight Marylanders during four years of conflict—is beyond me and my students. And John, before you accuse me of being a “typical liberal college professor,” please visit our website (www.shepherd.edu/gtmcweb/about_staff) and read my biographical sketch.

    Mark Snell

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  13. John Cummings

    Kevin,

    Trust me, as an American that can claim ancestors who fought (willingly or not), for both sides of the “Irrepressible Conflict”, I have no discomfort. What does “agitate” me is how we as a nation can celebrate how far we have come and yet find the time to insist that we have yet to right wrongs. We will never, in spite of how hard we try, be able to alter the past. What we can do is know that past, understand it for what it is and actually learn from it. It is shameful that as a nation, we have developed such discomfort with our past that we can not even take a stance on the upcoming Civil War Sesquicentennial. There has developed this great avoidance. We are apparently afraid to acknowledge our past.
    And honestly, I would welcome reading exactly how you do view our present condition as a nation regarding racial matters. What I can divine from your postings is that you have no problem bashing all things Southern with a great zeal. This strange, partisan stance is what makes it difficult to have a rational discourse with you. Far too many of your posts are now geared toward making fun of how things southern are remembered. Recently you have become quite the art critic.
    Here’s my point regarding the Maryland school children and their crusade: I suggest that perhaps, a greater understanding of the song’s origins (especially in view of recent battles over civil liberties) would ease their assumptions and in the end win them over. Context is everything.
    Bottom line, I think you were a bit heavy handed with the “good ole’ white Southern/Confederate values” opener. And that became my incentive to respond. I see no reference to race in the lyrics, but I do see quite a reference to an oppressive “despot” central government.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      John,

      You said: “What I can divine from your postings is that you have no problem bashing all things Southern with a great zeal.” The reason you say this is because you take an incredibly narrow view of what southern history encompasses. You have a certain view of my intentions and I am not going to spend time trying to persuade you otherwise. That said, I seem to be able to converse with plenty of people who have as strong a tie to the Confederate/Southern history as you without any problem at all. I am not uncomfortable with our past. As a historian my goal is to try to better understand it as well as how it continues to shape our culture. That’s where I am coming from. Of course, if you find my blog to be unsatisfying there are plenty of others to choose from. I make no apologies for what I write and think. As always, thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  14. Craig the Marker Hunter

    Sherree,
    How about the Virginia State Song?

    But I could make a game at re-interpreting state songs. Indiana’s “On the Banks of the Walbash” might well hide metaphors for abuse:

    Many years have passed since I strolled by the river,
    Arm in arm, with sweetheart Mary by my side,
    It was there I tried to tell her that I loved her,
    It was there I begged of her to be my bride.
    Long years have passed since I strolled thro’ there churchyard.
    She’s sleeping there, my angel, Mary dear,
    I loved her, but she thought I didn’t mean it,
    Still I’d give my future were she only here.

    Hummm…… walks by the river… begging her… she thought not…. now she’s sleeping in the churchyard.

    And then from Colorado, we have, in our 21st Century frame of mind, the poorly named “Where the Columbines Grow”:

    The bison is gone from the upland,
    the deer from the canyon has fled,
    The home of the wolf is deserted,
    the antelope moans for his dead,
    The war whoop re-echoes no longer,
    the Indian’s only a name,
    And the nymphs of the grove in their loneliness rove,
    but the columbine blooms just the same.

    Oh, so we chase the animals away and run off the natives….. and this place is pretty good then?

    With tongue in cheek,
    Craig.

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  15. Richard G. Williams, Jr.

    John, once again, I believe you’ve expressed the correct perspective most succinctly. Thanks for being a voice of reason here.

    Kevin, as you can see, there are a number of folks out here who take your comments as “bashing all things Southern with a great zeal.” We can all learn something from our critics.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Richard,

      Of course, you are entitled to your view, but please don’t mistake that for any intention on my part to “bash all things southern.” Southern history is a very broad and complex subject. Such a comment necessarily simplifies what is taken as legitimately falling under its heading.

      Do you also believe that Robert Moore and Greg Rowe hate all things Southern? They make some of the very same points that I’ve made. Is the problem that I am considered to be an outsider? Perhaps what you should say is that you believe I am bashing your idea of “Southern History/Heritage.

      By the way I also find some of your writing about Southern history/heritage to be offensive. It works both ways. Of course, like you, I have the right to be offended.

      Reply
  16. Richard G. Williams, Jr.

    Its not just my view Kevin, as John notes. I don’t think Greg and Robert go to the extremes you do, though they do agree with you at times; as do I on this point:

    “Southern history is a very broad and complex subject.”

    You make assumptions (mostly incorrect) on what my “idea of Southern History/Heritage” is.

    (I’m violating my New Year’s resolution here. I promised myself I would not get into these debates on other blogs. It’s a tough habit to break.)

    Thanks for letting me have my say.

    Best,
    RGW

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Richard,

      You are welcome to share your thoughts at any time. Again, I find some of your posts to be extreme. Like I said, it works both ways.

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  17. John Cummings

    Jarret,

    If I may ask, how did you surmise any reference to the Confederacy as a great “could-have-been”? That was never my intention and I struggle to find reason for your suggestion outside of perhaps “gut reaction” on your part. My point regarding Lincoln and civil liberties, contains a couched reference to the former administration of George W. Bush. There are a great number of Americans who treat his war on terror as an attack on civil liberties. Well, I will comfortably suggest that the citizens of Maryland felt the same way regarding Lincoln’s actions. That happens to be what the song is about. And as Mark Snell suggested above, “what else could he do?”
    So now I ask: “How might we compare the actions of President Lincoln with regard to keeping Maryland in the Union and the actions of President Bush to insure our national security?” Do we have a conundrum or a can of worms?

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  18. Timothy Orr

    I hail from the “Old Line State,” so I’ll weigh in on this deliberation. I approve of the idea of changing the state song. Personally, it means a great deal to me as my Civil War ancestor fought with the 4th Maryland (Union) Infantry, a regiment from the state’s loyal “Maryland Brigade.” From my research into the Maryland Brigade, I know that all of its members hated that song with a fiery passion. Its origins, as noted, came from a zealous secessionist who was then living in Louisiana. His muse came when he heard—incorrectly—that his old college roommate had been killed by the 6th Massachusetts during the infamous Baltimore Riot on April 19, 1861. Although Maryland possessed a talented Confederate element, it had many strong Unionists whose efforts to keep the state from Confederate hands should not be forgotten. Since Maryland never officially declared secession (although, I’ll admit, this occurred in the midst of some civil liberties violations) and because its 1864 constitution purged slavery without much pressure from the federal government, it seems silly to keep “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state anthem. The way I see it, there are several options. It is possible to keep Randall’s lyrics, but just have the offensive stanzas deleted. (A number of stanzas mention other aspects of Maryland’s venerable History: its colonial founding, its revolutionary heritage, and its valiant battles during the War of 1812. These are things that all Maryland wish to have remembered.) It is also possible to replace the song with this alternative poem by White that uses the same tune. (Admittedly, I do not know much about the origins of White’s lyrics.) However, I think it is somewhat unwise to alter the Randall’s song in an official way, as it is a piece of history—an embarrassing piece of history for Marylanders for sure—but it is something that should be remembered. I think that Maryland should come up with an entirely new state anthem, something vastly different than Randall’s piece. I worry that by altering a piece of Confederate propaganda we risk sugar-coating an artifact of history that should be remembered for what it meant at the time: that many Marylanders supported the Confederacy. But, to showcase Maryland’s progress, the state should consider something entirely original. Congratulations to the fourth graders of Glen Burnie for making the first step in this charge.

    Reply
  19. Kevin Levin Post author

    Timothy,

    Thanks for taking the time to lay out some possible alternatives. It’s also nice to know that not all southerners consider this post to be just another example of “bashing all things Southern.”

    Reply
  20. Michael Lynch

    Is there any chance we could change the lyrics to “MacArthur Park” while we’re at it? That song’s terrible.

    I enjoy some of Springsteen’s stuff, but it’s hard to rock out to a guy who’s old enough to be your dad. But I did drive to Detroit once to see Shakira, which was enormously gratifying. I defy any male to attend one of her concerts and not enjoy himself thoroughly.

    –ML

    Reply
  21. Sherree Tannen

    Craig,

    Here are the original lyrics to Old Kentucky Home, along with the doctored version, which is bad, if not worse than the original, for attempting to cover (barely) the extremely racist text of the original song. These types of songs are like the Confederate flag, in my opinion; they need to be retired. They are a direct insult to the black men and women who live in the states that support them as state songs.

    Michael, great music is like fine wine–it only gets better with age.

    Original Lyrics (1853)

    Old Kentucky Home

    The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
    ‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay;
    The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom,
    While the birds make music all the day.

    The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
    All merry, all happy and bright;
    By ‘n’ by Hard Times comes a-knocking at the door,
    Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.

    Chorus
    Weep no more my lady
    Oh! weep no more today!
    We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,
    For the Old Kentucky Home far away.

    Contemporary Lyrics (1986)

    The sun shines bright in My Old Kentucky Home,
    ‘Tis summer, the people are gay;
    The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom
    While the birds make music all the day.

    The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
    All merry, all happy and bright;
    By ‘n’ by hard times comes a knocking at the door,
    Then My Old Kentucky Home, good night!

    Chorus
    Weep no more my lady
    Oh weep no more today;
    We will sing one song
    For My Old Kentucky Home
    For My Old Kentucky Home, far away

    Full Original Version

    The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
    ‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay;
    The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom,
    While the birds make music all the day.

    The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
    All merry, all happy and bright;
    By ‘n’ by Hard Times comes a-knocking at the door,
    Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.

    Chorus
    Weep no more my lady
    Oh! weep no more today!
    We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,
    For the Old Kentucky Home far away.

    They hunt no more for the possum and the coon,
    On meadow, the hill and the shore,
    They sing no more by the glimmer of the moon,
    On the bench by the old cabin door.

    The day goes by like a shadow o’er the heart,
    With sorrow, where all was delight,
    The time has come when the darkies have to part,
    Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.

    Chorus

    The head must bow and the back will have to bend,
    Wherever the darky may go;
    A few more days, and the trouble all will end,
    In the field where the sugar-canes grow;

    A few more days for to tote the weary load,
    No matter, ’twill never be light;
    A few more days till we totter on the road,
    Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.

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  22. Kirsten M. Schultz

    Craig,

    Regarding changing lyrics of “My Maryland”:

    I view this action as very much a continuation of the old practice of marrying new words to pre-existing melodies. A look at Civil-War-era newspapers, songsters, broadsides (both printed and in manuscript) will quickly show how popular writing parodies (both serious and comic in tone) was. Confederates too were engaged in this practice, including IIRC, lyricists who wanted to elevate the tone of that newly powerful hit “Dixie’s Land”

    Aaack–laptop power going–more later.

    KMS

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  23. Jarret Ruminski

    John, I wasn’t so much referring to your post as I was to the UDC element. But that said, the fact that you, and many people, associate excessive federal power with Lincoln’s supression of habeas corpus says much about the perhaps unconcious hold that parts of the Lost Cause has on American memory. Every single wartime president, of all political stripes, has taken similar measures in some form, including Jefferson Davis, FDR, and as you rightly pointed out, G.W. Bush. However, in the popular imagination of many, it is Lincoln who is most often associated with wartime abuse of executive power. This reveals, I think, two important issues at the heart of American political culture: the “victimization” school of Lost Cause thought and that problematic little section of the Constitution that says the president can suspend habeas corpus in times of war (details, of course, are not provided). This is a debate worthy of continued discussion, but perhaps Lincoln should be put in the broader context of U.S. wartime presidents.

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  24. Greg Rowe

    I’m impressed more that the teacher and these fourth graders involved themselves in our political process to effect change. Most of my middle school students, even those in organizations like student council, seem to have the “what can we do, we’re just kids” attitude. That, to me, is a change for the better, and the truest safe-guard to our civil liberties.

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  25. Robert Moore

    From the for what it’s worth file…

    The roots of my surname are intimately tied to Maryland. Those Moores that remained in the eastern part of the state probably loved this tune; mine on the other hand, in Washington County, probably hated it. The point is, the tune worked for one portion (emphasis on “one portion”) of the state’s population during the Civil War (although the ANV’s less than luke-warm reception in Maryland in Sept. 1862 shows that the song was more hot air than truth when it comes to thoughts of “liberating” the populace). Yet, to continue the song as a state song in years after the war is pretty much like (for those who remain wholeheartedly endeared to Lost Cause doctrine) shaking a fist in the wind. The words have no meaning today other than as tool for a generationally removed protest against something that cannot be changed.

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  26. Tom Clemens

    As a Marylander I am really ambivalent about the song. I don’t like messing with a tradition because it doesn’t fit today’s agenda, although I also understand that tradition and “official endorsement” are different things. I suppose in defference to our Hispanic citizens we should eliminate the stanza recalling the American heroes of the Mexican War. After all, celebrating American imperialism might be as offensive as venerating a no-longer acceptable political viewpoint. And of course Kentucky should prepare to get rid of the word “gay” in their lyrics as fundamentalists will object to that endorsement. Maybe writing a song inoffensive to everyone is possible, but I sure would not want to try.

    Reply
  27. Kevin Levin Post author

    Tom,

    It’s worth for me to repeat that I actually agree with your overlook stance. We should not simply erase our representations of the past simply because they do not reflect current values. At the same time, much of our history and memory of the Civil War has a political root. As you well know most Civil War related monuments were dedicated at the turn of the twentieth century at the height of Jim Crow. Decisions were made to remember the past in our public spaces in a way that both reinforced and justified white supremacy and a fairly narrow interpretation of the war. My point is that some change is inevitable. What we need to think carefully about is how to go about it w/o completely alienating any one constituency. Thanks for the comment.

    Reply
  28. John Cummings

    Perhaps logic and reason should prevail and we find a way to teach and accept past as past. Most importantly we should cease to fan the embers of flames that have long died out. If presented in a clearly non-biased way we can stop alienating members of various constituencies. There is nothing productive gained by not seperating the past from present. Our children should never be encouraged to blur the distinction. Our nation has traveled a long way. The house divided that once existed between clearly drawn geographic and socio-economic ideologies no longer exists. Industrial versus agrarian ideologies are themselves nearly erradicated from the national map as industry fails and farm land is subdivided for massive residential developments and strip centers. The void that now exists is between the intillectual and the inane.
    I would strongly encourage everyone to read the Ray Bradbury novel “Fahrenheit 451″. Many of us older than 45 grew up reading Orwell’s “1984″, and we all feared the consequences of permitting a society to evolve as predicted in that novel. That future is upon us. The future foretold in “Fahrenhite 451″ is also not far off I fear. I do not mean the simple premise of the book, I mean the long reaching implications. Published in 1953 it warns of the efforts we now call “political correctness.” Please don’t dismiss my suggestion.
    The author himself writes in his coda for the 1979 paperback edition: “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian, Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist / Zionist / Seventh-day Adventist / Women’s Lib / Republican / Mattachine / FourSquareGospel feel it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse….Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by the minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the library closed forever. … Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with the censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony.”

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  29. Ken Noe

    Ballantine’s censorship of “Fahrenheit 451″ amounted pretty much to removing the curse words. Once restored, they’ve ironically managed to get the book challenged and indeed banned many times over the years, most recently in 2006 when two Texas parents demanded that the book be removed from the local public school (during Banned Books Week) because it was anti-Christian, full of bad language and cigarette smoking, and unfair to firemen. Since the term “political correctness” usually indicts the left, I wonder, what phrase fits in this case? Were the parents wrong? Do some (parents, legislators) have a right to censor when others (school kids, legislators, “South bashers”) don’t? Do some (traditionalists, people who want change) have a rightful claim to control historical memory while others (traditionalists, people who want change) don’t? Are we irrevocably bound to decisions made in the past, such as a state song written in 1861 but not officially adopted until 1939? Just some things I’ve wondered as I’ve read this thread. That and why the Japanese in 1938 considered it a Communist anthem.

    http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=4625303

    http://teachingamericanhistorymd.net/000001/000000/000010/images/communist.pdf

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  30. Kirsten Schultz

    To illustrate the point that writing new versions of lyrics, including “answer songs” was quite common, I post some links to broadsides (AKA song sheets) published during the war:

    1) An early edition of Randall’s poem. Note that what are thought to be early editions of the song are wed to the melody of Frederic Berat’s “My Normandy” rather than “Lauriger Horatius” (the college song that shares the same melody as “O Tannenbaum”).

    2) A pro-Confederate answer to “My Maryland”: “The Old Line’s Appeal”

    3) One of several sarcastic rejoinders by Unionists.

    I would see the fourth-graders’ efforts as a continuation of this process. Placing different “My Maryland’s” side by side would provide an excellent opportunity to teach students that song, like any other aspect of culture, is in constant flux. Seeing how various groups of Americans have presented themselves and represented others in versions of just one song would also illuminate how the past was used to generate meaning in the present.

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  31. Sherree Tannen

    This issue illustrates, in many ways, the crossroads at which our nation stands. How are we going to remember and honor the past in this new century? As Kevin and several readers indicate, to simply start replacing state and national songs and/or monuments and markers for the sake of replacing them is a slippery slope. Roll our history as a nation back far enough, and none of it makes sense. Yet, if you are a black man or woman, or Hispanic, or Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, how does the history of the nation as it is portrayed now and has been portrayed for centuries relate to you? How do you feel as you stand before a marker that calls the massacre of your ancestors a “battle”? How do you feel when a song that is sung about your state refers to your ancestors in derogatory ways? Do you feel like an American? Are you proud to be American? Whose America are we contemplating? We have the opportunity now to make this nation truly a nation of all of its citizens, and that is not political correctness, but good citizenship. Where I personally draw the line is when the reforms become as biased as the injustices that we are supposed to be correcting. That is when the issue can become very confusing and elusive. That is not the case here, however, in my opinion.

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  32. John Buchanan

    Some of you are no doubt aware of the monstrosity here in the Old Dominion known as Carry Me Back to Old Virginny. That needs to be replaced by this song for the official song of the Commonwealth
    Virginia
    Many a mile a soul may wonder
    To fates and places yet unseen
    In the end was just a gamble
    At least you chased a few dreams.
    You miss the ones that always loved you
    No matter whether right or wrong.
    Sometimes just a memory
    Is all you have to call home.

    My home will always be Virginia,
    Between the Blue Ridge and Chesapeake Bay
    Atlantic to Appalachia, home in my heart always.

    Some of us are meant to ramble
    Some for staying at home
    Hopefully everyone here
    Will find some place they belong
    So shed no tears at life’s passing
    Know the best is yet to come
    Find the peace everlasting
    Was peace of mind all along.

    My home will always be Virginia,
    Between the Blue Ridge and Chesapeake Bay
    And I’ll always be Virginian, born free to live out my days

    My home will always be Virginia,
    Between the Blue Ridge and Chesapeake Bay
    Atlantic to Appalachia, home in my heart always.
    You know I make my home in Virginia,
    Between the Blue Ridge and Chesapeake Bay
    And when this earthly ramble is over,
    My soul will find peace there always.
    The home in my heart is Virginia

    If you want to hear it live, tune into WCVE-FM, 88.9 FM on Saturday nights (http://www.ideastations.org/radio/program.html) at 8 PM Eastern. It will only take 3 minutes but listen to Page Wilson open his local radio show with this beautiful song.

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  33. Sherree Tannen

    I would like to add a comic note to this thread, if I may, Kevin. I understand the thread is getting long, so I will be brief.

    I was a literature major in college, prior to the full advent of feminism. I left the university believing that women writers were inferior to men who wrote. (That was quite a common belief at one time.) Then, at a later age, I undertook the study of feminism myself and decided that most men were actually inferior to women–a sort of inversion of the original injustice. During the time period in which I was studying feminism, I remembered how one professor had shredded a poem by Joyce Kilmer, and I knew in my heart that the professor had done this because Joyce was a woman. There was only one problem with that assumption: Joyce Kilmer was not a woman; Joyce Kilmer was a man. You get my point, I am sure. A comment by one of your astute readers threw me back temporarily: “’She breathes! she burns! she’ll come! she’ll come!’ God that’s hot!” Ah, I thought, sexism lives on in the universities! (That is a new twist, isn’t it? Universities not as leftist leaning communist training grounds, but as bastions of sexist/racist ideology?) I thought the comment referred to Sakira, of whom I know zero. Of course, the quote is from the song in question, “Maryland, O Maryland.” It is good for the soul to laugh at yourself. Everyone who writes into your blog cares about our nation–even the readers who don’t agree with the view expressed–and so do you. I truly thank you again for the work you do. I am exhausted just being a reader of blogs. I can’t imagine actually running a blog as complex as this one, plus teaching. Have a good one. (Larry, I told the Cherokee Elder who runs our sweat lodges about your work, and he was very impressed. He said that you are invited, any time you visit our neck of the woods, to sit in a lodge with us)

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  34. John Cummings

    Adding to Sherree’s point if I may, would be the fact that the composer of “Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny” was an African American by the name of James A. Bland, said to be one of the greatest minstrel composers of the 1870s and 80s. Bland was the son of the first African American US patent examiner. Bland attended Howard University but decided on music as a career instead of the legal profession as his father had.
    Additionally, we must not forget that there is a great likelihood that Dan Emmett, the white “composer” of DIXIE, took liberties in his association with a pair of African American brothers, Lew and Ben Snowden, ( or their parents Thomas and Ellen), and essentially lifted their composition.
    African Americans created the genre of “Minstrel” music just as their” Blues” inspired “Rock & Roll”. It seems that its easy to recognize good music when it is so readily emulated by others. Elvis Presley became “THE KING” because as Marion Keisker and Sam Phillips saw it, “he had that ‘negro’ sound.

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  35. Sherree Tannen

    You’re not adding to my point, John, you are contradicting it. No matter what the history of minstrel, I do not know any black men and women who support the genre today. If you do, then you have made your point for those men and women you do know, but not for the majority. I personally like the song that John Buchanan referenced for Virginia’s state song. Thanks, Kevin.

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  36. John Cummings

    Sherree,

    You made the point that your professor assumed Joyce Kilmer was a woman and thus he unjustly judged “his” work as inferior. I carried the point further by saying people would automatically assume that Carry Me Back To Ole Virginny was written by a bigoted, racist, white supremist, which it clearly was not. Alas, John Buchanan called the song a “monstrosity”, should I take that comment as bigoted and racist?
    I surely hope that the African American community does not wholesale reject the Blues, Jazz and Rock & Roll because a great number of whites perform those genres today. In fact there are some really great all African American “Heavy Metal” bands out there, and as Elvis may have had that “negro” sound, these gentlemen sure sound “white”.
    Is the goal to be one happy family or not? I had thought you made a really good point that people can’t go around making uninformed assumptions. Maybe I assumed wrong.
    With all due respect.

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  37. Sherree Tannen

    Douglas Wilder, who was a senator at the time, objected to “Carry me back to Ole Virginny” as Virginia’s state song in 1970. Apparently, the song was not retired until 1997. That is a long time to wait for the granting of a simple request that the state show respect for its black residents. That is what this issue is all about, when all is said and done. Maybe a time will come when the citizens of the South and of the nation at large who are of a different race do not have to ask white Americans for what should be freely and gladly given to them. I think we are getting there. Again, thanks, Kevin. Your blog, and the contributors to it, help to further this goal.

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  38. Sherree Tannen

    John,

    Perhaps I did misunderstand you. I take it that you are not, therefore, advocating that we reinstate “Carry me back to old Virginny ” as Virginia’s state song. In other words, you agree that the song should have been retired. Kevin, you are the host. If you want no more comments, please say so, and I will cease and desist.

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  39. Sherree Tannen

    John,

    I don’t know where you went, but I visited your blog and I really like it. I like the way, in particular, that you talk about the rural life that you knew growing up. A lot of that has disappeared, and not for the better.

    Speaking as a reader of this blog for almost a year now, I can tell you that Kevin does indeed provide a level playing field. There are some sharp jabs that go back and forth periodically, but that is to be expected due to the nature of the issues being discussed. I think that if we all dropped the terms “politically correct” and “revisionist history” and any number of other buzz phrases, that better dialogue would naturally result. These are difficult issues, but not insurmountable. You love Virginia. I love Virginia. Other readers who are Virginians love Virginia. And Kevin, who is also a Virginian, loves Virginia, so yes, you could say that, in that respect, we are all one happy family and that as Tolstoy so famously said in his opening line to Anna Karenina, “All happy familes resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” That is a nonsequitur for sure, but it sounds good, so I’ll leave it, lol.

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  40. John Cummings

    Since this thread has contained so much of the history behind song origins and adaptations of tunes with new lyrics (wow, who would have thought the Japanese aversion to Oh, Christmas Tree!), I offer up an adaptation of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. I hope everyone watching at home will sing along:

    All our times have come
    Here but now they’re gone
    People don’t fear your heritage
    Nor the wearin’ of the Blue and the Gray…we can be like they were
    Come on everyone…don’t fear your heritage
    People take a hand…don’t fear your heritage
    Be you black or white…don’t fear your heritage
    Come on take a stand…

    Four long years is done
    Here but now they’re gone
    U. S. Grant and R. E. Lee
    Are together in eternity…U. S. Grant and R. E. Lee
    650,000 men wounded or KIA…Loved U. S. Grant and R. E. Lee
    650,000 men wounded or KIA…Redefined sacrifice
    All 650,000 casualties…We can honor their lives
    Come on people…don’t fear your heritage
    Come on take a hand…don’t fear your heritage
    Be you black or white…don’t fear your heritage
    Come on take a stand…

    There was two now one
    Here but now they’re gone
    Came the last night of sadness
    And it was clear it couldn’t go on
    Then the door was open and the wind appeared
    The candles blew then disappeared
    The curtains flew then they appeared…saying don’t be afraid
    Come on everyone…we should have no fear
    And the end was now at hand…and one flag started to fly
    No looking backward and sad goodbye…let’s become like they are
    They had taken a stand…let’s become like they are
    Come on everyone…don’t fear your heritage

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  41. Sherree Tannen

    Thanks again for the dialogue, Kevin. And thank you, John. In the above comment, I said that maybe a day will come in our nation in which citizens of other races will not have to ask white Americans for what should be freely and gladly given to them. It goes even further than that, as I know the readers of this blog know. White men and women are not in a position to give anything to anyone. The rights and respect being either requested or demanded by other races are inalienable, and not possessed by white men and women to give or not give. It comes down to a matter of perception and empathy. And none of us is any better at it than any other, including, of course–and especially–myself.

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  42. Sherree Tannen

    John, you didn’t answer the question. Do you advocate a return of the song “Carry me back to ole Virginny” as Virginia’s state song? If you do, then we don’t agree, and we will have to agree to disagree. It is a terribly offensive and racist song, no matter what the history behind it, and as one reader remarked here, why do we have to be bound to the past, and particularly to a past like that? We don’t. Democracy is fluid and alive, and we have the power and the right to create it and recreate it with each generation.

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  43. John Cummings

    No Sherree, I would not even begin to approach reinstating the song. Far too much water under a bridge that has a dam in front of it.
    I am simply worried about assumptions based on lack of information. Why would a black man write a song that would be offensive to others of his own race? Was he selling out? Or was he just using the language of the day? How does it reconcile? Would he be upset if you told him you thought his work was offensive? What will the future judge of sexism and racism from some of todays Hip Hop artists?
    I am really fearful of a world as foretold in the novel “Fahrenheit 451″. Did you read my post about it in this thread?
    My interest in the Civil War has evolved considerably over the years, but I’m back to where I started. I have ancestors who fought from the North and the South. I can’t disrespect any of their memories. I am non partisan now and I respectfully study both sides. There are far too many variations on why these men fought to be biased today. Their world was stunningly different from ours in all respects. I would hate to think of a day when remembering either of them would be considered a hate crime because it dredged up a bad thought for someone. All roads lead to Rome they say.
    My study will not be governed by one single political motive. When I do my research in assorted archives or explore the terrain where these men fought I see them in their moment. I know all the causes and the accusations of why the war was fought, but I seperate that from their moments of anguish on the field of battle.
    There is no easy use of the Mason/Dixon line today but somehow we have a pretty evenly divided country as all the red state/blue state coverage will show you. But what is the driving force behind this divide? Economic policy. Party partisanship. Difference in philosphy. And it is spread from sea to shining sea. Is it based on race? No. We are not the nation of 1860, not even close.
    The United States has changed so much for the better since the Civil Rights Movement that it is an injustice to suggest otherwise.
    How many people, right now, realize that if you do the math and factor in inflation, that the total cost to this nation of waging the Civil War is equal to the current cost of bailing out the auto industry? Over $130 billion.

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  44. Sherree Tannen

    John,

    I think that if you will stay tuned, you will see that many of Kevin’s readers agree with you on many points. Also, if you will visit the blogs of Robert Moore (Cenantua) Greg Rowe and Vicki Bynum you will feel at home. Thank you for responding, and again I thank our host for this forum. Sherree

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  45. Pingback: Remembering the Revolution in Maryland « Past in the Present

  46. Jim

    The song was written by a Marylander angry at the murder of his fellow Baltimore citizens by the hands of Federal soldiers. Apparently ignoring the true meaning of responding to overstretched authority and villifying southern sympathies is today’s game. Many liberals are interested in changing everything that doesn’t fit into their modern view of progressive values. My opinion is to leave the song alone.

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  47. Robert Moore

    In a word… “context.” The song no longer takes on the same significance to SOME that it did back then. Marylanders were by no means unified behind the sentiment of this person who wrote the song back then, so why in the heck is the song continuing to carry on and project the sentiment of only part of the Marylanders who were even around back then? There’s no point. The song should be archived as a piece through which we can understand part of Maryland’s past. It has no relevance to the greater population of Maryland as it is today.

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