This is the cover of an 1879 songbook featuring the music of James Bland, an African American composer of minstrel pieces. The son of free black parents, Bland had never been to Virginia when he wrote the first song listed here. In 1940 it became the official state song of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Beginning in the 1970s there were a number of protests against its celebration of the relationship between "darkeys" and "old massa" in "Old Virginny," and in 1997 the state legislature designated it the "state song emeritus," but it has never been replaced or formally repudiated.
BACK TO MINSTRELSY PAGE