Tuesday, July 14, 2020
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IL & Md. marching bands scrap symbolic songs

The flagship universities in Illinois and Maryland announced moves today to eliminate the playing of music at sporting events that some people believe offends certain groups or glorifies slavery or the Confederacy.

The University of Illinois, Urbana, has retired the “Fighting Illini War Chant,” the Daily Illini, which is the student newspaper at the Big 10 university, is reporting.

Members of the Native American and Indigenous Student Organization, which was involved in talks to eliminate the playing of the war chant at sporting events, released a statement expressing pleasure with the Marching Illini’s decision.

“We have had the opportunity to speak to members and leaders of the Marching Illini, and while we were personally not involved in [the] final decision of removing the war chant, we are inspired to see how committed the band leaders are to promoting school spirit and making sure that we feel welcome during their performances,” the statement said.

And the marching band at the University of Maryland, College Park, also a Big 10 school, announced that it will suspend the playing of “Maryland, My Maryland,” at least for now, while it evaluates the character of the words of the state’s official song.

“Maryland, My Maryland,” which is set to the tune of “O Tannenbaum,” was written in 1861 by James Ryder Randall, who was upset over the shooting death of a friend who was protesting Union troops in Baltimore. It refers to President Abraham Lincoln as a “despot.”

Drum major Brian Starace told the Baltimore Sun he supports the move, saying the song was never something he was “too proud to be playing.”

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!

The song is also sung at the Preakness horse race every year. However, the verse chosen for singing at the horse race doesn’t contain any references to slavery or to Lincoln.

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Maryland!
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Maryland!
Remember Carroll’s sacred trust,
Remember Howard’s warlike thrust,
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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