Voices raised over state's politically incorrect anthem


THE STATE of Virginia's official anthem Carry Me Back to Old Virginia may soon be stripped of its status because of references to "darkie" and massa", writes Joe Carroll in Washington.

The Virginia senate voted this week against a proposal to keep the song but get rid of the offensive words. Next week a Bill may go through which would retire the song and give it "emeritus" status, while setting up a commission to choose a replacement.

The song was composed in the 1870s giving the nostalgic view of a freed slave who wants to go back to the old plantation "where this old darkie's heart am long'd to go" and "where I laboured so hard for old massa".

It became the official Virginia song in 1940. But it has not been played at a state function for more than 20 years because of the slave and racist overtones. Many attempts have been made to come up with a new version: hearings have been held by legislators to listen to guitar-strumming composers.

But the Virginia Senate has blocked all the attempts by the more populist House of Delegates to retire the song. The Senate has up to now favoured excising the offensive references but keeping the song.

This week, however, the Senate voted against this proposal. Black senators argued that the song is identified for them with a period of white supremacy and changing the lyrics would not help.

Senator Emmett Hanger disagreed, saying that a more "graceful" solution would be to change the words while keeping a "beautiful song".

Now it looks that the old song is going to be abolished in Virginia - even if they keep singing it in Irish pub.