Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
My Old Kentucky Home
For the short film, see My Old Kentucky Home (movie)
The song was inspired by Foster's visit to Federal Hill Mansion, the home of his cousins the Rowans in Bardstown, Kentucky. Sen. Rowan's wife was given land by her father William Lytle, a member of the prominent Lytle family of Cincinnati, and there Sen. Rowan built the most 'famous home' in the West. This house, now part of My Old Kentucky Home State Park, appears on the Kentucky state quarter.
The original song describes a scene of life on a slave plantation. Some view the song as a racist view of an idyllic time of slavery, while others including abolitionist Frederick Douglass saw the song as sympathetic to slaves. In 1986, the Kentucky General Assembly adopted a sanitized version which changed the word "darkies" to "people."
"My Old Kentucky Home" is traditionally sung annually at the Kentucky Derby where it is played by the University of Louisville marching band. The University of Kentucky band also plays the song at their college's basketball and football games. In an amusing tradition at UK games, fans consider it to be a major breach of etiquette to sing any lyrics preceding "Weep no more, my lady..."
The lyrics to the first verse and chorus are
The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
Tis summer, the people* are gay;
The corn-top's ripe and the meadow's in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor
All merry, all happy and bright;
By'n by hard times comes a knocking at the door
Then my old Kentucky home, Good-night!
Weep no more my lady. Oh! Weep no more today!
We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home
For the old Kentucky home, far away.
- * original words: "darkies"
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