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Virginia State Song Emeritus

"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny "

Written by James Bland

Adopted in 1940 (Retired 1997)

The song, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny", words and music by James Allen Bland, was adopted as the official state song of Virginia by the General Assembly with House Joint Resolution No. 10 in 1940.

The legislation designating "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia" as the state song emeritus was signed by Governor George Allen on March 20, 1997. This bill had the effect of maintaining the song as an historical document while retiring "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia" as the official state song.

Virginia State Song Emeritus: "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny "

"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny "

Carry me back to old Virginny,
There's where the cotton and the corn and tatoes grow,
There's where the birds warble sweet in the springtime,
There's where the old darkey's heart am long'd to go,
There's where I labor'd 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.

CHORUS:
Carry me back to old Virginny,
There's where the cotton and the corn and tatoes grow,
There's where the birds warble sweet in the springtime,
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 wander'd,
There's where this old darkey's life will pass away.
Massa and missis have long 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.

Origin of Song: "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia"

Written in 1875 by prolific African-American composer and popular entertainer James Bland, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia" (originally known as "Virginny") was adopted in 1940 as the official state song of Virginia. In 1970, then-Senator Douglas L. Wilder objected to the song's lyrics with their romanticized view of slavery. This objection officially initiated a controversy that remains unresolved three decades later.

During his tenure as governor (1990-1994), Wilder continued to urge retirement of "Carry Me Back," and in 1997, the song finally was relegated to the enigmatic status of "State Song Emeritus." A 1998 competition to pick a new state song resulted in a short list of eight finalists. Since then, the process has continued to attract international attention and controversy. One contestant filed a lawsuit. A bill to make sausage maven and political donor Jimmy Dean's anthem "Virginia" the official song led to allegations of favoritism and influence peddling. Now in hiatus, the subcommittee has no immediate plans to reconvene, and any vote would have to pass both houses of the General Assembly, with the governor having the final word.

On Jan 28, 1997 the Virginia Senate voted 24 -15 to designate Carry Me Back as state song "emeritus" and directed a study committee to come up with a new state song.

"The Virginia House of Delegates voted 100-0, with no debate, to retire the state song. Wire reports refer to a need to work out differences in House and Senate versions, but I haven't had a chance yet to determine whether that may be a potential snag.
Gov. Allen seems willing to sign the bill to retire it. He's said previously that he would support a song that all Virginians could sing with pride."

The ACIR intends to make a final selection in the contest and a recommendation to the General Assembly and the Governor for the 2001 General Assembly session. Carry Me back to Old Virginny was written by an African American minstrel, James Bland, in the last century and has been Virginia's state song since 1940.

Code of Virginia, Title 7.1, Chapter 5, Section 7.1.37.

TITLE 7.1. BOUNDARIES, JURISDICTION AND EMBLEMS OF THE COMMONWEALTH....
CHAPTER 5. Song, Floral Emblem, Official Dog, Shell, Beverage, etc. of the Commonwealth...
SECTION 7.1.37. Official song emeritus

7.1-37. Official song emeritus. The song "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia," by James A. Bland, as set out in the House Joint Resolution 10, adopted by the General Assembly of Virginia at the Session of 1940, is declared to be the official song emeritus of the Commonwealth.

(Code 1950, 7-35; 1966, c. 102; 1997, c. 576.)

State Songs
US State Songs
Forty-nine states of the United States (all except New Jersey) have one or more state songs, selected by the state legislature as a symbol of the state.
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