I realize we have entered a period of peak woke stupidity, but Joseph Gerth of the Courier Journal in Kentucky may take the prize for dumbest journalist in America. He has penned a column saying Kentucky’s state song, “My Old Kentucky Home” needs “to go.” He claims it is a pro-slavery song.
The history of the song says otherwise.
My Old Kentucky Home was penned by Stephen Foster. It was inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an abolitionist novel. It became influential in the abolitionist movement in the run up to the Civil War. As people with a clue about the song have noted:
“My Old Kentucky Home” was different. It is a lament by a slave who has been sold by his master and, bound for the Deep South, must say goodbye to his beloved birthplace. It hints at the brutal mistreatment he faces: “The head must bow and the back will have to bend . . . In the field where the sugar-canes grow.” In a 2010 interview with NPR, music critic Ken Emerson, who wrote a biography of Foster, said “My Old Kentucky Home” was inspired by the anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” “Ironically,” Emerson said, “here is a song that was inspired by a great abolitionist novel, and which no less a leader then Frederick Douglass himself singled out as a song that awakens the sympathies for the slave, in which anti-slavery principles take root and flourish. So, like all of Foster’s music, it’s thick with contradictions that, to this day, I think, are part of the American experience.”
If a song adopted by the abolitionist movement, inspired in part by an abolitionist novel, and praised by Frederick Douglass “needs to go,” nothing is really safe.
Perhaps people should do a better job of learning history. To quote Frederick Douglass directly, the song, “awaken(s) sympathies for the slave, in which anti-slavery principles take root, grow, and flourish.” Perhaps Mr. Gerth needs to read some more.