Maryland's state song is patriotic. The tune is familiar. But read between the lines.

(Soundbite of song, "Maryland, My Maryland")

Unidentified Man: 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.

HANSEN: The despot in this case is Abraham Lincoln. The lyrics were written during the early days of the Civil War and became something of a rallying cry against the north. But do the words make much sense today? Not to a group of fourth graders from a Maryland elementary school. That's why they made a trip to the Maryland House of Delegates.

Ms. ANTOINETTE LEE: Hello, delegates. My name is Antoinette Lee from Glen Burnie Park Elementary School. I'm speaking in favor of the House Bill 1241. I would like to change the Maryland state song because it calls the northern states of the United States northern scum.

HANSEN: Yeah, that line about northern states being scum is in the song, too. The song was written by Maryland native James Ryder Randall, a Confederate sympathizer. It started as a poem, a protest of Union troops marching through Baltimore. It didn't become the state song until 1939, when they put it to the tune of "O Tannenbaum." Antoinette Lee and her fellow fourth graders have been studying the song with school library media specialist Linda Tuck.

Ms. LINDA TUCK (Library Media Specialist): We have two fourth grade classes here, and we took a vote and overwhelmingly both class voted that they wanted to change the song and do something about it.

HANSEN: Tuck says the students then wrote and sent about 50 letters to Maryland's delegates. Delegate Pamela Beidle is co-sponsoring the bill to change the song and use a poem written in 1894 by Maryland teacher John T. White. Here's Antoinette Lee again singing a verse from the proposed new version.

Ms. LEE: (Singing) We dedicate our song to thee, Maryland, my Maryland. The home of light and liberty, Maryland, my Maryland.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. LEE: (Singing) We love thy streams and wooded hills, thy mountains with their gushing rills. Thy scenes our heart with rapture fills, Maryland, my Maryland.

HANSEN: Tell us about your own state song. Any lyrics you'd like to change or see go? Let us know. Go to our blog, npr.org/soapbox.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from