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Virginia Song Sent To Retirement

Wed., Jan. 29, 1997, midnight

Virginia’s Senate voted Tuesday to retire the state song, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia,” because of its references to “darkeys” and “old massa.”

The 24-15 vote to relegate the tune to “state song emeritus” and set up a commission to pick a new song came a day after the Senate overwhelmingly backed off a plan to replace the slurs with “dreamer” and “old Mama.”

“One day someone will come up with a song we can all sing, but you can’t fix ‘Carry Me Back to Old Virginia,”’ said Democratic Sen. Benjamin Lambert, who is black.

Written by a black New York minstrel in 1875, the song takes the perspective of a freed slave reminiscing fondly about a “darkey’s” longing to return to plantations where he labored for “old massa.”

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