Sheet music illustration, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," circa 1890.
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Sheet music for "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny

Credit: Library of Congress

First published in 1878, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" became one of James Bland's most popular songs. Songs of the South, evoking romanticized visions of bygone days, fed creation of a mythic old "Old South" of moonlight, magnolias, gentlemen and their belles, and contented slaves. In 1940 the Virginia Legislature adopted "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia" –unslanging the name–as the state song. In 1997 it was relegated to "state song emeritus" because of public distaste at the lyrics' romanticization of slavery.

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