Out Of Tune

by TNR Staff | August 31, 2006

Since this blog is called "Open University," I might as well start my own contributions with a pop quiz. Question: Which American state has an official state song that praises the Confederacy, denounces Abraham Lincoln as a "despot" and "tyrant," and refers to the citizens of the Union as "northern scum"? Hint: it's not in the deep South. Yes, it's none other than my own home state of Maryland. The song "Maryland, My Maryland" was composed in 1861 by a Confederate sympathizer named James Ryder Randall, who was outraged at Lincoln marching Union troops through Baltimore, and called on Maryland to join the other slave-owning states in secession. Set to the tune of "O Tannenbaum" (which has also provided the music for compositions as diverse as the British Labour Party's "The Red Flag" and Cornell University's "Evening Song"), it became widely popular in the Civil War, and was adopted by the legislature as the state's official song at the height of segregation, in 1939. With the Maryland primary coming up on September 12th, this might be a good time for the leading gubernatorial candidates, Republican incumbent Bob Ehrlich and Democratic Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, to call for the removal of this embarassing relic of the state's less-than-glorious past. Even Alabama has finally removed an unconstitutional anti-miscegenation law from its books, although it waited until November, 2000, 33 years after the relevant Supreme Court decision, to do so. Question for my Open University colleagues: Do you know of any other such lingering embarassments that are still on the books of American states? --David A. Bell

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