Maryland legislators took a step forwards in cleaning up the state song yesterday. In a 38-7 vote, senators agreed to keep “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state song, but also removed references to the Confederacy and the words “Northern scum” from the final verse.
‘I hear the distant thunder-hum, Maryland! The Old Line’s bugle, fife, and drum, 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!’
Sung to the tune of “O Christmas Tree,” the song’s adoption — and the purpose thereof — remains somewhat shrouded. According to the Associated Press, the historical record suggests institutional racism played a role.
It was proposed in 1935, a year after the state had celebrated the tercentenary of its founding, and could’ve been adopted as a source of state pride, according to a panel that studied the song in 2015. The racial and political climate of the time should also be considered. There had been two lynchings, and the trial of an African-American man accused of murdering a white family in the early 1930s.
At the same time, the NAACP was pursuing equal pay for African-American teachers and by enshrining a Confederate war anthem, the General Assembly may have been seeking symbolically to challenge such efforts, the report said.
The song is openly seditionist, which is not surprising given that its author, James Ryder Randall, served in the Confederate Navy after he wrote it in 1861. His opening verse references the violence that occurred when rioters attacked federal troops in Baltimore five days after the fall of Fort Sumter.
The despot’s heel is on thy shore, Maryland! His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland! Avenge the patriotic gore/ That flecked the streets of Baltimore, And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland! My Maryland!
Of course, not everyone is so eager to replace lyrics glorifying the violent culture of slaveholding that was responsible for the War of Southern Aggression. Maryland is below the Mason-Dixon line, after all, and therefore remains a part of the traditional south.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is enthused by the move. Sen. Robert Cassilly (R-Harford) whined to the AP that “history” is being erased.
‘”Our song doesn’t belong to the Confederacy. It belongs to us,” he said.
Cassilly said the song celebrates the courage of people who are willing to stand up and fight for what they believe in, even if they turn out to be on the wrong side of history.
“It is what it is, but we learn from history, we learn from each other and we build upon it, so the idea that we’re trying to excise our history is just, I don’t think that’s America,” Cassilly said. “That’s not what we’re about.”‘
Get that? The song “belongs to us,” but he says the current generation shouldn’t change the lyrics because they “celebrate” people who started America’s bloodiest war to keep Maryland “on the wrong side of history.” It is what it is:
‘Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll, Maryland! Thou wilt not crook to his control, Maryland! Better the fire upon thee roll, Better the blade, the shot, the bowl, Than crucifixion of the soul, Maryland! My Maryland!’
Maryland also phased out Confederate flags on license plates last year during a wave of revulsion to Dylann Roof’s murders of nine churchgoers at the historically-black AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. Until yesterday, observers thought the energy of that moment had largely ebbed as state legislatures in Tennessee and Alabama move to protect their publicly-funded Confederate monuments.Click here for reuse options!
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