Sweet Freedom's Song: My Country 'Tis of Thee and Democracy in America

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Although it isn't the official national anthem, America may be the most important and interesting patriotic song in our national repertoire. Sweet Freedom's Song: "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and Democracy in America is a celebration and critical exploration of the complicated musical, cultural and political roles played by the song America over the past 250 years. Popularly known as My Country 'Tis of Thee and as God Save the King/Queen before that this tune has a history as rich as the country it extols.

In Sweet Freedom's Song, Robert Branham and Stephen Hartnett chronicle this song's many incarnations over the centuries. Colonial Americans, Southern slaveowners, abolitionists, temperance campaigners and labor leaders, among others, appropriated and adapted the tune to create anthems for their own struggles. Because the song has been invoked by nearly every grassroots movement in American history, the story of America offers important insights on the story of democracy in the United States.

An examination of America as a historical artifact and cultural text, Sweet Freedoms Song is a reflection of the rebellious spirit of Americans throughout our nations history. The late Robert James Branham and his collaborator, Stephen Hartnett, have produced a thoroughly-researched, delightfully written book that will appeal to scholars and patriots of all stripes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Robert James Branham, an American professor of rhetoric, had a hunch that in American borrowings of this melody lay a story fascinating in its own right....Readers will learn much from these pages."—-Times Literary Supplement

"[A] fascinating account of the history of the song some consider the US's real national anthemAn excellent microcosm of US history."—CHOICE

"Branham's research revealed that advocates of temperance, women's suffrage, labor organization, the abolition of slavery, the promotion of patriotism, and varied notions of national identity during the Civil War repeatedly chose this melody to frame their versified thoughts...Readers will learn much from these pages."—Times Literary Supplement

"[A] useful source in regard to the many forms of a most important American hymn and its links to nineteenth-century social reforms....Offers students of nineteenth-century America a wealth of information about aspect of the self-promotion efforts of social reform."—American Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195137415
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen J. Hartnett is Assistant Professor of Speech Communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana. As a musician and poet, he has released numerous recordings. Robert James Branham was Professor of Rhetoric at Bates College.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: "You Can Sing What Would Be Death to Speak" 3
1 "God Save the ööö!": Institutionalizing, Appropriating, and Contesting Nationalism through Song, 1744-1798 14
2 "The Subordination of the Different Parts and Voices": Popularizing "America" through Grassroots Activism, 1826-1850 45
3 "Bombast, Fraud, Deception, Impiety, and Hypocrisy" in the "Dark Land of Slavery," 1830-1859 86
4 "Teach Us True Liberty": "America" in the Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1869 119
5 Reforming the "Sweet Land of Knavery": "America" and Political Protest, 1870-1932 163
Epilogue: "America," "God Save the Queen," and Postmodernity 197
App. A Sixteen Versions of "God Save the King" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee," Organized Chronologically, 1744-1891 205
App. B Selective List of Alternative American Versions of "God Save the King" and "America," 1759-1900 221
Notes 229
Index 259
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