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Spirit & Heritage In Song – ‘Carry Me Back to Old Virginny’ – 1878

 

Spirit & Heritage In Song is a series highlighting Traditional American Music.

In the last half century many of these traditional songs have been forgotten in a flood of contemporary music and international cultural influences. Yet these songs, ballads, melodies and hymns reflect the events, cultural backgrounds, aspirations, land and faith that make up the soul of the American People far more than the strains of moderne music that have washed upon the nation’s shores. This series is offered as a reminder of the Spirit of America as given voice in song.


 

” Massa and Missis have long since gone before me,
Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore.
There we’ll be happy and free from all sorrow,
There’s where we’ll meet and we’ll never part no more. ”

 
 


Carry Me Back to Old Virginny

James Allen Bland

“Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” is a song which was written by James A. Bland (1854 – 1911), an African American minstrel who wrote over 700 folk songs. It is was an adaption by Bland of the traditional “Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny” popular since the 1840’s and frequently sung by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War. Bland’s version, the most well known, was adapted in 1878 when many of the newly freed slaves were struggling to find work. The song has become controversial in modern times. Wikipedia

Modern Misunderstandings of Bland’s Version Context
Bland himself was an educated black man born in Queens, New York, and educated at Howard University. His adaption of “Carry me Back” however is written from the perspective of a nostalgic former slave.

Defenders of the song argue that “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” articulates and perhaps satirizes the feelings of betrayal and abandonment white Southerners felt after Emancipation. Like minstrel music of the same era, the song was written in dialect, from a black point of view, and expressed the feelings some whites wished blacks to feel; in this case, nostalgia for days of slavery. Others argue the song was written to express difficulties and discrimination facing free blacks in the North which perhaps were bitter enough to make slavery an ironically appealing contrast. These defenders argue that minstrel’s songs were never written to be taken literally but were sly and humorous. The slightly less explicit “Old Folks at Home”, still the state song of Florida with important modifications, carries a similar message.

Adoption of the State Song Emeritus
The song … was adopted as the official state song of Virginia by the General Assembly with House Joint Resolution No. 10 in 1940.

Even as it was adopted, some expressed concern over the lyrics. In fact, the name of the song was changed from “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” to “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia”, either at the time of adoption or perhaps in 1950 or 1966.

In 1970, Virginia Senator Douglas L. Wilder objected strongly to the song’s lyrics with their romanticized view of slavery and worked to dethrone the song with little success. After being elected Governor of Virginia (1990-1994), he again initiated legislative efforts to retire the song.

In 1994, Senate Bill No. 231 was introduced, proposing to modify the words to the original song. Senate Bill No. 231 addressed words within the lyric considered to be offensive to some, but leaving most of the verses intact. Specifically, five words were addressed and changes suggested. The Virginia Official Song Emeritus

 

Lyrics below

 


Tom Roush


 


Marion Anderson 1945


 


Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy in ‘Maytime’


 


See other songs of the American Spirit in History and at Music

 

Lyrics

(Bland’s 1878 version)

Carry me back to old Virginny.
There’s where the cotton and corn and taters grow.
There’s where the birds warble sweet in the spring-time.
There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go.

There’s where I labored so hard for old Massa,
Day after day in the field of yellow corn;
No place on earth do I love more sincerely
Than old Virginny, the state where I was born.

Carry me back to old Virginny.
There’s where the cotton and the corn and taters grow;
There’s where the birds warble sweet in the spring-time.
There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go.

Carry me back to old Virginny,
There let me live till I wither and decay.
Long by the old Dismal Swamp have I wandered,
There’s where this old darkey’s life will pass away.

Massa and Missis have long since gone before me,
Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore.
There we’ll be happy and free from all sorrow,
There’s where we’ll meet and we’ll never part no more.

Carry me back to old Virginny.
There’s where the cotton and the corn and taters grow;
There’s where the birds warble sweet in the spring-time.
There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go.

Lyrics (Version dating from 1840’s and commonly sung by Virginia Confederate Soldiers)

On de floating scow ob ole Virginny,
I’ve worked from day to day,
Raking among de oyster beds,
To me it was but play;
But now I’m old and feeble,
An’ my bones are getting sore,
Den carry me back to ole Virginny
To ole Virginny shore.

CHORUS: Den carry me back to ole Virginny
To ole Virginny shore,
Oh, carry me back to ole Virginny,
To ole Virginny shore.

Oh, I wish dat I was young again,
Den I’d lead a different life,
I’d save my money and buy a farm,
And take Dinah for my wife;
But now old age, he holds me tight,
And I cannot love any more,
Oh, carry me back to ole Virginny,
To ole Virginny shore.

When I am dead and gone to roost,
Lay de old tambo by my side,
Let de possum and coon to my funeral go,
For dey are my only pride;
Den in soft repose, I’ll take my sleep,
An’ I’ll dream for ever more,
Dat you’re carrying me back to ole Virginny,
To ole Virginny shore.

 


America remember and honor your history – it will give direction,
purpose and security to your future.

 

Plow & Hearth

 

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