Mich. school drops folk song

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A song about people picking cotton was pulled from a middle school concert in suburban Detroit after a black parent complained that it glorifies slavery.

Superintendent Tresa Zumsteg decided Monday to remove the song "Pick a Bale of Cotton" from the program, said Gwen Ahearn, spokeswoman for the Berkley School District.

Ahearn said that when the song was picked for Wednesday's folk songs concert at Anderson Middle School, there was no intent to offend anyone. "As it became apparent that that is the case, we pulled the song," she said. The school is predominantly white.

The song's lyrics include, "Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton. Gotta jump down, turn around, Oh, Lordie, pick a bale a day."

Parent Greg Montgomery said he complained to school officials, and when he was dissatisfied with their response, decided to pull his 11-year-old daughter, China, from singing.

"It's mind-boggling that people don't understand sensitive issues," he told The Detroit News.

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Joan E Crow-Epps - 11/16/2005

Doesn't this song perfectly set up what I would think is a 'teachable moment'? Where you could discuss slavery and forced labor and how the pickers managed to make art out of labor?

It's not clear from the article how this was handled at the school, but it just seems like such a loss to ban something because one parent is upset rather than explore alternatives that could get a good history lesson across to kids.

Mike Schoenberg - 11/16/2005

Just remember the lyrics from Tom Lehrer's song "Folk Song Army"
Oh we hate poverty, war and injustice unlike the rest the rest of you squares.
Oh there are inumerable folk song,
but we regard them with scorn,
The folks who sing them have no social consience,
Why they don't even care if Jimmy cracked corn.

david little - 11/16/2005

I guess no Ring Around the Rosy, either. It might offend somebody who had a family member die of the Black Death.

Ignorance and thin-skin are a potent combination, though....

- David Little
- Houston, TX

John Reed Tarver - 11/16/2005

Of course, it doesn't seem to matter that the song was popularized by the great black fold singer, Huddie Ledbetter, also known as Leadbelly. Ignorance wins.