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View Diary: Racist song in my kid's music class, Part 2 (313 comments)

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  •  Not just Whistling "Dixie" (none)
    I now remember when I last heard the Pick a Bale of Cotton song.  It was in the movie "Girl, Interrupted", in which a white girl at the juvenile asylum sings it over and over to taunt a black member of the staff.

    I also remember an incident I read about from the mid 90s, in which Senator Jesse Helms got in an elevator, saw Senator Carol Mosely Braun,  and started singing, "Oh Ah wish Ah wuz in de land ub cotton" in an exaggerated dialect, while looking directly at her.  Now, that's class.

    She didn't react, and so Helms went on. He said, "I'm going to keep singing that song until you cry."  To which Ms. Braun replied, "The way you sing, I'd cry if it was Rock of Ages."
    Now that's class!

    The power of song.

    "Hit a man with a fish, and he'll have a headache for a day. Teach him to hit himself with a fish, and he'll have headaches all his life!"--Karl Rove

    by AdmiralNaismith on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 04:05:39 PM PST

    •  At last the source of the Urban Legend (none)
      Well, maybe the scene from "Girl Interrupted" is how the urban legend started that Pick a Bale of Cotton was "racist." It's too bad a song made famous by Leadbelly was used for that purpose -- did you know there is a US postage stamp of Leadbelly? And that he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received postumous grammy awards?

      As for "I wish I was in the land of cotton" -- that is the first line of "Dixie" -- adopted as the anthem of the confederacy -- arguably is indeed a racist song for that reason, just as flying the confederate flag is perceived (rightly) as racist.  It is an irony of history, however, that "Dixie" is actually a minstrel song, by our old friend Dan Emmet: of New York City.

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