Songs of the KKK

Download the PDF

 

** Due to the sensitive nature of the material covered, this lesson should not be used in all classrooms. A variety of song options and activities will be provided so that each instructor can customize this for the classroom. **


The Basics

SUBJECT

American History


TARGETED GRADE LEVELS

11th-12th grade


STANDARDS:

Common Core standards or your state standards.

Author: Valerie Rogotzke (2013)


The Lesson

 

Introduction

Songs about and by the Ku Klux Klan provide a unique perspective on the reorganization in the United States following the Civil War and during the immigration debates of the early twentieth century. The use of contrafacta to popular tunes viscerally illustrates both the denigration of the Klan in the post-Civil War era and the patriotic, Christian claims of the Klan during its reincarnation in the early twentieth century.

The music of the early Klan (1865-1877) is limited to a few songs about the KKK written by those who opposed it. The first lesson in this plan includes these two election songs for the Grant campaigns of 1868 and 1872: “KKK,” a new text written to the tune of “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye”/”When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” and “Ku Klux Klan,” a new text written to the tune of Dixie. These songs can be integrated into a study on the early years of the Reconstruction and the passage of the 13th-15th Amendments to the Constitution.

During the KKK revival of the early twentieth century, Klansmen began to compose their own music and rewrite texts to popular songs for their own purposes. The second evangelistic religious songs from the early twentieth century and the contrafactum texts composed by members of the Klan for their own usage: the popular Christian song “The Old Rugged Cross” and most well-known Klan song, “The Bright Fiery Cross.” These can be integrated into a study of changing immigration policies, anti-Catholic sentiment, tent revivals, and the changing role of religion and ethnicity in American politics.


I have included additional songs from the second wave of the KKK that can be used by teachers to supplement the lesson. While “The Bright Fiery Cross” was the most popular KKK song in the time (existing in several recordings and editions of sheet music), other contrafacta to patriotic songs and hymns could be used in the lessons in their place. Some of these songs engage the immigration debate, while others illustrate anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic rhetoric.


These lessons are designed to drop at two key points in a chronological American history course. They can be adapted in any high school classroom. Although there are no recordings of the early songs, the tunes are recognizable and many recordings of instrumental versions of the songs exist as tools to jog students’ musical memories.

 

OBJECTIVES:

Using the Ku Klux Klan as a case study, students will develop a deeper understanding of the conflict over race, ethnicity, immigration, identity, and religion in American history. They will be able to identify the origins of the KKK in the aftermath of the Civil War and its second incarnation in 1915 amid a wave of Christian evangelism and national immigration debates. Through the analysis of primary sources found using online search tools, students will understand the differences between the first and second wave of the KKK in terms of geography, scope, and ideology. Moreover, students will become more comfortable working with different types of primary sources: political documents such as the Emancipation Proclamation, Constitutional amendments, photographs, historical newspapers, songs, election songbooks, quotations from political leaders, et cetera.

 

RESOURCES/MATERIALS

SONGS:

First Wave of the KKK, 1865-1874.

1.           “KKK” (Tune: “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”)        

Anti-klan song from a Grant 1868 election songster. The lyrics state that electing Grant puts the “rebs” in their place and leaves the Klan “a-tremblin’ in their shoes.”

2.           “Ku Klux Klan” (Tune: Dixie)

              Anti-klan song from Grant’s 1872 election songster. Lyrics discuss black voting in the

South and the suppression of voting rights through violence; the Klan will be afraid if Grant is given four more years.


Second Wave of the KKK, 1915-1944.

1.           “The Old Rugged Cross”         

Popular Christian hymn with no KKK connection. This hymn was popularized in the

evangelistic movement because of its use by Homer Rodeheaver in the Billy Sunday

2.           “The Bright Fiery Cross” (Tune: “The Old Rugged Cross”)

              Written just a few years after “The Old Rugged Cross” became popular, this song quickly

became the most recorded Klan song. The text speaks of duty and the image of the bright fiery cross, but does not directly engage racism, anti-Catholicism, or immigration policy.


APPENDIX: Additional Songs from the Second Wave of the KKK, 1915-1944.

1.           “Mystic City”

              The B side of most early recordings of “The Bright Fiery Cross,” with emphasis on

Gentile, Protestant, native-born Americans.

2.           “When Will the Pope Come?” (Tune: America/“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”)

              Virulently anti-Catholic reworking of a popular patriotic tune. Racist lyrics also target

Jews and Asians, making it a song to tie to the Asian Exclusion Act of 1882.

3.           “Battle Hymn” (Tune: “Battle Hymn of the Republic”)

              Lyrics discuss immigration policy and the power of the White House.

4.           “The Church in the Wildwood”

              Another popular hymn with no KKK connection, written in 1857.

5.           “The Cross in the Wildwood”

              Using the burning cross as its central image, this also patriotically cites Old Glory in its

anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic text.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:


David M. Chalmers. Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan. Durham, N.C.:

Duke University Press, 1987. The most comprehensive history of the KKK from its inception through the late twentieth century.

Danny O. Crew, Ku Klux Klan Sheet Music: An Illustrated Catalogue of Published Music,

1867-2002, Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2003. A chronological listing of all the printed sheet music about and by the KKK, complete with cover sheets and lyrics. Music not provided, but the tunes are given when the music is not originally composed.

Will Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew: An Essay in American Religious Sociology. Garden

              City, NY: Doubleday, 1955. American religious history by ethnicity, Herberg argues that

              America is a "triple melting pot" wherein nationalities fall away in assimilation, but the

              country remains divided along Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish lines.

Michael Jacobs, “Co-Opting Christian Chorales: Songs of the Ku Klux Klan,” American Music

28, no. 3 (Fall 2010): 368-37. Article on the widespread use of KKK contrafacta texts to both Christian chorales and patriotic hymns.

Leonard J. Moore. Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921–1928. Chapel Hill:

University of North Carolina Press, 1991. An examination of the Indiana Klan in the era of “The Bright Fiery Cross.”

Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories, Kregel Publications, 1982. A collection of brief essays

on the origins of Christian hymns and chorales.


History Detectives, PBS.

http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/investigation/fiery-cross/.

A 16-minute program on the origins of the early KKK recording industry, revealing that

the Italian producers of the early KKK records kept their label name off the record to

distance themselves from the Klan. Five weeks prior to recording the 100% Americans

singing Klan songs, the same company recorded Louis Armstrong’s first trumpet solo.

 

 “KKK”


Words: No author indicated.

Music: Air -- When Johnny Comes Marching Home


Song Background: This song appeared as an election song on page 26 in The Grant Songster, for the Campaign of 1868. In the election of 1868, Republicans Ulysses S. Grant and Schulyer Colfax ran against Democrats Horatio Seymour and Francis P. Blair, Jr. The songster, a small 4½” x 6½”, fit easily into the palm of the hand. Like many of the election songs in the booklet, an anonymous author penned new words to a familiar tune. The tune used here, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” would be familiar as both the tune “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye.”

No recordings available.

Verse 1

Oh! Hearken to the glorious news, hurrah! Hurrah!

The rebels all have got the blues, hurrah! Hurrah!

The people all are turning out,

With drum and banner, song and shout,

And the Ku-klux-klans are

A-tremblin’ in their shoes

A-tremblin’ in their shoes.


Verse 2

Upon the breeze our banner blue, hurrah! Hurrah!

We’ll spread for Grant and Colfax too, hurrah! Hurrah!

For him who lead to vict’ry on,

And Indiana’s favorite son,

And the Ku-klux-klan is

A-shiverin’ in its shoes

A-shiverin’ in its shoes.

Verse 3

The rallying shouts are rising high hurrah! Hurrah!

On every hand we hear the cry, hurrah! Hurrah!

And Schuyler C. they’ll find will be,

As obstinate as General G.,

While the Ku-klux-klan stands

A-tremblin’ in their shoes

A-tremblin’ in their shoes.

 

Verse 4

They’ll find we’ll Chase ‘em to the wall, hurrah! Hurrah!

And they will See-more in the fall, hurrah! Hurrah!

While onward freemen’s votes will role,

Till the tailor’s clique will hunt its hole,

And the Ku-klux-klan

Will be dying in its shoes

Will be dying in its shoes.



* * *

 

Focus Questions:

* Identify. What is the “banner blue” in verse 2? Blue marks the Union in the Civil War. Who is “Schuyler C.” in verse 3? Schuyler Colfax, running as Grant’s vice presidential candidate. Who is “Chase” in verse 4? Salmon P. Chase, then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Who is “See-more”? Democratic presidential candidate Horatio Seymour. Whose are the “freemen’s votes” in verse 4? The votes of the newly freed slaves.

* Contextualize. Which amendments had already been passed at the time of this election? The Thirteenth Amendment (abolishing slavery) was adopted in 1865 and the Fourteenth Amendment (guaranteeing full citizenship to all) was adopted in July of 1868. The Fifteenth Amendment, however, had not yet been adopted. What is in the Fifteenth Amendment, and how did this impact voting rights in the Reconstruction Era? The text of the Fourteenth amendment did not explicitly grant voting rights to all races, so not all freedmen were given the opportunity to vote in the 1868 election. The Fifteenth Amendment guarantees voting rights to all races and a mechanism to enforce those rights.

              The Fifteenth Amendment

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged

by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

* Interpret. What impact does the familiar tune have on the meaning of this song? Does it make you want to vote for Grant? What does the listener learn about the KKK from this song?




POLITICAL CARTOON, 1868 Election:Description: https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/nhvSHEciCrW-gDpAoZNL26uosQyRTuRmSDOb4DO51K8CFdpYFYarULBIq5oSTiMGpB7itr73e5nCUUtpu_o4q8IxiL6oU4uZE43SlJ26f2CCNuAHqD7reOYqpQ







“Ku-Klux Song”


Text: No author given.

Music: Air--Dixie

Song Background: This election song was published on page 77 of the 100 pages in the National Republican Grant and Wilson Campaign Song-Book: “We’ll Sing a Song for U.S. Grant”. The anonymous author writes new lyrics to the tune of “Dixie” for Ulysses S. Grant’s reelection campaign of 1872. He and vice presidential candidate Henry Wilson ran against Democratic candidate Horace Greeley and running mate Benjamin G. Brown. The song addresses the enforcement of the newly passed Fifteenth Amendment.

Suggested Recording

Although there are no recordings of this song, an option for the classroom would be to play an instrumental version of the song. An upbeat, military-themed version of the song with snare drums and brass can be found here on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCnEndNO-ho. This version is from the early film The Birth of A Nation, a pro-KKK film from the early 20th century that mixes historical fact and fiction.

Verse 1

I’ve a song to sing to every Greeley man,

With a few brief words on the Ku-klux Klan,

Far away, far away, far away, in Dixie land.

‘Tis the Ku-klux Klan that parades at night,

With pistol and whip, dealing death and affright,

Far away, far away, far away, in Dixie land.

Chorus

Oh! A lovely land was Dixie --

(In a horn! In a horn!)

But Grant was the man destroyed their Klan,

And gave free speech to Dixie’s land,

Then hurrah! hurrah! hurrah for Grant and Wilson!

Verse 2

When election came around, and the rebels found

That the blacks all took the Republican ground,

Far away, far away, far away, in Dixie’s land.

They conspired in the Klan, with a horrible oath,

To stop them by whipping or murder, or both,

Far away, far away, far away, in Dixie’s land.

             

Chorus

Oh! A lovely land was Dixie --


 

Verse 3

Then a reign of terror and blood began,

And the blacks were taught by the Ku-klux Klan,

Far away, far away, far away, in Dixie’s land.

That to save their lives they must keep from the polls,

And swear that Republicans had no souls,

Far away, far away, far away, in Dixie’s land.


Chorus

Oh! A lovely land was Dixie --


Verse 4

But the President said, “You inhuman Turks,

I propose to move immediately on your works,”

Far away, far away, far away, in Dixie’s land.

And the cowardly assassins, after all their rant,

Fell into the gripe of the law, and of Grant,

Far away, far away, far away, in Dixie’s land.

Chorus

Oh! A lovely land was Dixie --

Verse 5

Now the Ku-klux are shivering in deadly fears

Lest Grant should be President four more years,

Far away, far away, far away, in Dixie’s land.

So they vote and pray, like our friends here in town

For soft old Greeley and hard old Brown.

Far away, far away, far away, in Dixie’s land.


Chorus

Oh! A lovely land was Dixie --

 

* * *

 

Focus Questions:

* What does this song say the KKK was doing in the United States in 1872?

* What was Grant’s reaction to the KKK? What is the “gripe of the law” in verse 4?

* How does the music of “Dixie” impact your understanding of the song?

* Which kind of voter would this song appeal to?

* Would this song make you want to vote for Grant?

* How do elections today address specific laws or political accomplishments of the candidates?


 

“The Old Rugged Cross”

Text and Music: George Bennard

Song Background

This hymn was composed by George Bennard in 1913, but became famous because of its use in Christian revival meetings with baseball-player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday. Music director Homer Rodeheaver frequently programmed this hymn, composed in a sentimental popular style with verses and choruses, and later recorded it.

Suggested Recording

http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/7616/ Library of Congress recording of Homer Rodeheaver and Mrs. William Asher singing the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” with orchestral accompaniment. 1920 studio recording made in Camden, NJ. Time duration 2:34.


Verse 1

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,

The emblem of suffering and shame;

And I love that old cross where the dearest and best

For a world of lost sinners was slain.


Chorus

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,

Till my trophies at last I lay down;

I will cling to the old rugged cross,

And exchange it someday for a crown.


Verse 2

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,

Has a wondrous attraction for me;

For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above

To bear it to dark Calvary.


Chorus

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross...

Verse 3

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,

A wondrous beauty I see,

For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,

To pardon and sanctify me.


Chorus

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross...

Verse 4

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;

Its shame and reproach gladly bear;

Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away,

Where His glory forever I’ll share.


Chorus

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross...



* * *

 

Focus Questions:

* When does the recording sound like it was made? Variety of answers from students.

* How can you tell? Scratchy sound, wobbly voices, brassy instruments, etc.

* Where is the “hill far away”? Jerusalem, at the site of the Crucifixion.

* Why is it an “emblem of suffering and shame”? Because Jesus suffered during his death.

* Who is the “dearest and best” in verse 1? Jesus, who “was slain” “for a world of lost sinners.”

* What’s the narrative mode of the song, and how does that impact the song? First-person            

singular personalizes the song to each person who sings it.

* What’s the form of the song: strophic, or verse-refrain? Verse-refrain, which makes it sound

more like a sentimental popular song than a traditional strophic hymn.

* Why would this hymn be in this form? By using popular culture, this song appeals to those

outside the church and also makes the revival movement more culturally relevant.

 

Following a brief lecture on American religious divisions, ask the following questions:

* Who is this hymn written for? Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox Christians? Protestants.

* How do you know that? It's written in English in a popular style. No Catholic or Orthodox worship service would have used anything but the liturgy (i.e. the order of service) in Latin, Greek, or Church Slavonic.


“The Bright Fiery Cross”


Text: Alvia O. DeRee.

Music: George Bennard.


Song Background

Indianapolis Klansman Alvia O. DeRee wrote new words to the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” just a few years after it became popularized by Homer Rodeheaver in the Billy Sunday revivals of the early twentieth century. DeRee later published a book of poetry in 1928 as well. This song, often referred to as “Our Song”, became the most popular KKK song of its time. Sheet music for the parlor was reprinted throughout the 1920s, and the song was recorded in the KKK recording studios of the era.

Suggested Recording

Old records are available, but no recordings. Brief clips sung by a Klan quartet named The 100% Americans are on the cited History Detectives [8:50-9:00, 14:20-14:30]. Sheet music is available via the Levy Sheet Music Collection. http://levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/catalog/levy:151.084

Verse 1

Over all the U.S.A., the fiery cross we display;

The emblem of Klansmen’s domain,

We’ll be forever true to the Red, White, and Blue,

And Americans always remain.

Chorus

So, I’ll cherish the Bright Fiery Cross,

Till from my duties at last I lay down;

Then burn for me a Bright Fiery Cross,

The day I am laid in the ground.

Verse 2

To the bright fiery cross, I will ever be true;

All blame and reproach gladly bear;

And friendship will show to each Klansman I know;

Its glory forever we’ll share.

Chorus

So, I’ll cherish the Bright Fiery Cross...

Verse 3

Oh, the bright fiery cross, despised by a few,

Has a wondrous attraction for me;

And when I leave here some day, for my home far away,

May a bright Fiery Cross beam for me.


Chorus

So, I’ll cherish the Bright Fiery Cross...


* * *

 

Focus Questions:

Questions about the sheet music for BEFORE listening:

* What images does this song use? The red, white, and blue. Americans. The fiery cross.

* What else does the cover tell you about the song? The words "Our Song" are prominent.

 

Questions about the music for AFTER listening:

* Is this song patriotic or nationalistic? What kind of America is portrayed here?

* How were bright fiery crosses used by the KKK in the 1910s and 1920s?

* What does this song say about the values of the Klan? Value being an American, show friendship to all other Klan members, act responsible for your duties.

* Who is the song written for? Written by a Klansman for fellow Klan members.

* How does the tune impact what you think of this song? Students will have a variety of responses.

* Did the composer of “The Old Rugged Cross” have any say in the creation of this song? No.

* How does this new text compare to “The Old Rugged Cross”? What are the similarities? Where there are differences, how can you explain the changes? The text of “The Bright Fiery Cross” is very similar to the “The Old Rugged Cross.” The chorus borrows many words from the original, and the verse texts line up with both as well. It is clear that Alvia DeRee knew “The Bright Fiery Cross” well. When changes are made, the shift is often one from an emphasis on Christendom to the Klansmen’s domain or the United States. Calvary and Jesus’ death on the cross is replaced by a cross “beam[ing] for me.” The changes illustrate how the ideals of universalism and sacrifice in “The Old Rugged Cross” have been twisted into ideals of Americanism to the exclusion of others and self-interest.


 

 

Compare and Contrast Handout

“The Old Rugged Cross” 

Text: George Bennard 

Music: George Bennard   

“The Bright Fiery Cross”

Text: Alvia O. DeRee

 

[ORIGINAL VERSE ORDER]            [VERSE ORDER HAS BEEN CHANGED]
Verse 1 Verse 1

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,   

The emblem of suffering and shame;     

And I love that old cross where the dearest and best

For a world of lost sinners was slain.   

Over all the U.S.A., the fiery cross we display;   

  The emblem of Klansmen’s domain,

We’ll be forever true to the Red, White, and Blue,

And Americans always remain.

Chorus

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,    

Till my trophies at last I lay down;       

I will cling to the old rugged cross,   

And exchange it someday for a crown.       

Chorus

So, I’ll cherish the Bright Fiery Cross,

Till from my duties at last I lay down;

Then burn for me a Bright Fiery Cross,

  The day I am laid in the ground.

Verse 2

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, 

Has a wondrous attraction for me;           

For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above  

To bear it to dark Calvary. 

 

Verse 3

Oh, the bright fiery cross, despised by a few,

Has a wondrous attraction for me;

And when I leave here some day, for my home far away,     

May a bright Fiery Cross beam for me.

Verse 3

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,

A wondrous beauty I see,

For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,

To pardon and sanctify me.

 

 

Verse 4    

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;  

Its shame and reproach gladly bear;     

Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away,  

Where His glory forever I’ll share.      

  Verse 2

To the bright fiery cross, I will ever be true;

All blame and reproach gladly bear;

And friendship will show to each Klansman I know;

Its glory forever we’ll share.

 

                           

                             

APPENDIX: Additional KKK Songs for Use in the Classroom

Depending on how you or your school incorporate discussions of race, ethnicity, and politics, you may want to tailor the song choice used in the classroom to specific political issues. Alternatively, you may consider an extension exercise using these songs.

 

 

 

 

“Mystic City”


Words and Music:  John M. Nelson and Noah F. Tillery (1882-1943)

Song Background

The song “Mystic City” was one of the most widely distributed songs of the KK in the 1920s. Harry F. Windle first published the sheet music in 1922, and the song was so popular, it was republished multiple times through the decade. Multiple singing groups recorded this tune, often placing it on the B side of recordings of  “The Bright Fiery Cross.”

Suggested Recording

https://app.box.com/shared/kt8ds1d327 This quartet called themselves the 100% Americans. The recording uses a quartet and soloist for the choruses and verses, and is accompanied by a small orchestra with brass instruments.


Verse 1

Lived there in the mystic city of the empire that’s unseen

A grand and noble wizard who once had a wondrous dream.

In this dream he saw Old Glory and the cause of liberty

Being supplanted by a people who had come across the sea,

Bringing with them flags and customs belonging to primeval lands

To affix and plant them firmly in this, our native land.

Chorus

Klansmen, Klansmen, of the Ku Klux Klan,

Protestant, gentile, native-born man,

Hooded, knighted, robed and true,

Royal sons of the Red, White, and Blue,

Owing no allegiance we are born free,

To God and Old Glory we bend our knee,

Sublime lineage written in history sands,

Weird, mysterious Ku Klux Klan.

Verse 2

With a sudden start, he wakened, opened wide his seeing eyes,

Crying, “Room for one flag only underneath American skies!”

Then the fiery cross, he lighted and from that symbolic charm

Were united all the Klansmen from cities, towns, and farms,

Bound by bonds of Klansmenship are stronger than bonds of steel

For their country’s flag and heritage, they would die before they yield.


Chorus

Klansmen, Klansmen, of the Ku Klux Klan…

Chorus

Klansmen, Klansmen, of the Ku Klux Klan…



“Battle Hymn”

  

Words: No author given.

Music:  Tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Song Background

“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was incorporated into some KKK songbooks with its original lyrics by Julia Ward Howe, and into other KKK songbooks with newly written lyrics explicitly supporting Klan behavior.  One example of the latter is found in a songbook called A-T-L-A-N-T-I-C County for the Klan, published circa 1923. In this book, hymns such as “Christ Arose” and “How Firm a Foundation” are found alongside KKK parodies “The Bright Fiery Cross” and “Battle Hymn.”

No recordings available.

Verse 1

There’s a mighty organization

Of an empire that’s unseen;

Sweeping over all the nation

Neath the fiery cross’ beam.

With a pure and noble purpose

They are bound to make men free

If they go marching on.

Chorus

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!

While the Klan goes marching on.


Verse 2

They have sounded forth a trumpet

With a blast that’s loud and long;

Calling Protestants together

Who have hearts brave and strong.

Oh! The swift dear souls to answer.

Join this great and happy throng,

As they go marching on.

Chorus

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah...


Verse 3

We must watch our immigration

We must watch our White House door,

We must watch our public school house

As we never did before.

We must keep our church doors open;

And the cross of Christ adore,

And with God go marching on.


 “When Will the Pope Come?”

 

 

Words: No author given.

Music: Tune of America (“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”)

Song Background
The KKK songbook A Few 100% Selections (To the Good Old Tunes We all Know) features newly written lyrics to popular tunes such as “This is Like Heaven to Me,” “Yankee Doodle,” “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It was published circa 1924 in Vincennes, Indiana, and like many KKK songbooks, indicates no authors of the lyrics contained therein. (Other KKK songbooks list the author as “A. Klansman.”) This selection is to the tune of “America,” a popular patriotic song at the time.

 

No recordings available.

 

1.           They say the Pope will come

To make our land his home

But when that day?

When cats quit catching mice

And a Chinaman won’t eat rice

And chickens have no lice

Then he will come.


2.           When bristles grow on geese

And rocks all turn to grease

Then he will come.

When a Ford will make no noise

And Irish raise no boys

Our battleships are all toys

Then he will come.


3.           When car wheels are made of glass

And cows quit eating grass

The Pope will Come.

When dogs no more will bark

And sing just like the lark

And Baboons play the harp,

The Pope will Come.

4.           When mules all cease to kick

And sheep the slat won’t lick

Then he will come

When bullfrogs cease to leap

And owls at night will sleep

And snails no longer crep

Then he will come.


5.           When donkeys cease to bray

And catfish live on hay

Then he will come.

When cash won’t tempt the Jew

And cows no cud will chew

And woodpeckers heads turn blue

The Pope will come.

 

6.           When snakes upright will walk

And women cease to talk

Then he will come.

When the Negroes all turn white

And the sun will give no light

When the bulldogs will not fight

              Then he will come.

7.           When all men cease to think

And polecats do not stink,

The Pope will come.

When we no more mine lead

And Klansmen all are dead

And the seas with their blood is red

The Pope will come.



“The Church in the Wildwood” 

 

Words and Music: William S. Pitts

 

Song Background

A Wisconsin schoolteacher and singing school director wrote the hymn “The Church in the Wildwood” after first seeing a church being built in the small town of Bradford, Iowa in 1857. Pitts took the tune to a Chicago publisher after the completion of the building roughly a decade later, but it was not until the gospel singer Charles Alexander used the song on the evangelist circuit of the 1890s that it came to national attention.

 

Suggested Recording

This popular hymn has been recorded

 

Verse 1

There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood,
No lovelier spot in the dale;
No place is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.

 

Chorus

Come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the dale,
No spot is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.

 

Verse 2

How sweet on a clear, Sabbath morning,
To list to the clear ringing bell;
Its tones so sweetly are calling,
Oh, come to the church in the vale.

 

Chorus

Come to the church in the wildwood


Verse 3

There, close by the church in the valley,
Lies one that I loved so well;
She sleeps, sweetly sleeps, ’neath the willow,
Disturb not her rest in the vale.

 

Chorus

Come to the church in the wildwood…

 

Verse 4

There, close by the side of that loved one,
To trees where the wild flowers bloom,
When the farewell hymn shall be chanted
I shall rest by her side in the tomb.

 

Chorus

Come to the church in the wildwood

Verse 5

From the church in the valley by the wildwood,
When day fades away into night,
I would fain from this spot of my childhood
Wing my way to the mansions of light.

 

Chorus

Come to the church in the wildwood…

 

“The Cross in the Wildwood”


Words: No author given.

Music: William S. Pitts

Song Background

This KKK version of “The Church in the Wildwood” was also included in the songbook A-T-L-A-N-T-I-C County for the Klan. It was republished in no less than 9 separate versions over the following decade, sometimes with two verses and sometimes with three. This version comes from the songbook There Comes a Call to Old Virginia, a mimeographed collection for local Klanswomen that dates from circa 1924.

No recordings available.


Verse 1

There’s a cross that is burning in the wildwood,

Its beauty reflects on the skies.

As its base you will find thousands kneeling,

Praying that its meaning never dies.

Chorus

Oh! Come! Come! Come! Come!

Come! to the cross in the wildwood,

And learn of its meaning so true;

You will carry away in your bosom

The great beauty that’s pure as the dew.

 

Verse 2

For the cross that is burning in the wildwood,

Each Klansman has sworn to be true;

He has pledged to uphold Old Glory

Not to down the Catholic and the Jew.

Chorus

Oh! Come! Come! Come! Come!

Verse 3

By the cross that is burning in the wildwood,

Each Klansman Will guard brave and true;

They will carry their Emblem to victory,

For the dear old Red, White, and Blue.

 

Chorus

Oh! Come! Come! Come! Come!

 

PROCEDURE:

Part I:               The Foundations of the Reconstruction:

                            Reconstruction Amendments and the Elections of 1868 and 1872

This lesson picks up immediately following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the military events leading through the end of the Civil War. In order to follow the issues of race and politics in the Reconstruction Era, this begins with the Emancipation Proclamation, which the students were introduced to at an earlier date.  The next lesson in chronological sequence in this class would pick up with the presidential election of 1876 and the Compromise of 1877.

 

Take anything from this that is useful in your classroom, and feel free to incorporate activities into your regularly planned lessons. This is designed for a two-hour class period, but can be broken down into smaller sections as need be.

0. Read/            Distribute a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation to students at the end of the

    Write            previous period. For work at home, they will read the document. They will summarize the text in one typed paragraph and provide two questions for class discussion on a sheet to be handed in at the start of class. (Go to the National Archives website for an image and transcript of the Emancipation Proclamation. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/emancipation_proclamation/)

 

1. Discuss          Open the class with a guided discussion of the Emancipation Proclamation using their questions. These will likely include things like the following: Who was it for? What did it specify? When was it written? What kind of document was it? What were its limitations? What were its strengths? Did the Emancipation Proclamation do enough? (Supplement with questions of your own if need be.)

 

2. Read             Display the 13th Amendment on the board and ask each student to read quietly.

                            Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for                                  

crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the                                      

United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

 

                            Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

 

3. Discuss          How is this different from the Emancipation Proclamation? Who is included?

 

4. Lecture         Present the timeline of events in a classroom lecture:

1865     

Ideological differences on Reconstruction: moderates Lincoln and Johnson versus the Radical Republicans of Congress

Creation of the Freedmen’s Bureau for one year

Passage and implementation of the 13th Amendment  

Assassination of Lincoln, Ascension of Johnson

1866     

Election places Congress in the hands of the Radical Republicans

Radical Republicans renew Freedmen’s Bureau after Johnson veto

Increasingly restrictive Black Codes passed by Southern states

1867     

Passage of the Reconstruction Acts

Creation of 5 military districts in the South

1868     

Impeachment of Andrew Jackson

Impeachment trial under Supreme Court Justice Chase

Passage and implementation of the 14th Amendment

Election of 1868: Grant vs. Seymour

 

5. Read             Display the 14th Amendment on the board and ask each student to read quietly.                               

This text is notably longer than either the 13th or 15th Amendments.

 

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the                               

jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they                           

reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges                                 

or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any                                         

person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any                                       

person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

 

              Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States                                       

according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in                                  

each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election                                     

for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States,                                 

Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the                                     

members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of                                

such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in                                       

any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of                 

representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of                               

such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one                                          

years of age in such State.

 

              Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector        

of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the                                        

United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a                                      

member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any                                      

State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the                                       

Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion                                        

against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress                                        

may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

 

              Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law,                            

including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in                                      

suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the                                       

United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in                               

aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss                                     

or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be                                       

held illegal and void.

 

              Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation,                              

the provisions of this article.

 

              

 

6. Discuss          How does this build on the 13th Amendment? Why is this necessary?

 

7. Song              Song activity: “KKK”

Distribute a copy of the lyrics to each student. Play instrumental version of the song OR encourage the students to sing the song together on a neutral syllable (“Dum da dum”) while they read through the lyrics. One strategy to getting the students to sing the song together is to first have them sing through the melody on a neutral syllable, then ask them all to sing the lyrics together. There will be some stumbling over the lyrics, but most will make it through and follow the teacher's lead. Break into small groups and distribute the political cartoon of the 1868 election. Give students time to fill out organizers, then elect one person from each group to present to the class.

 

8. Show             Pull up an election songster for Grant, found online at   http://archive.org/details/grantsongster01newy.

 

9. Discuss         How were elections different in an era before mass media? What tools did

                            political campaigns use to get their message across? How is the election of 1868                                  

different from an election today?

 

10. Lecture       Present the timeline of events in a classroom lecture.

                            1869     

Grant takes office, reinstates Radical Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War

                                          15th Amendment proposed

                                          US readmits Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas after voting rights changes      

                            1870     

Force Acts begin: Enforcement Act of 1870

 

11. Read           Display the 15th Amendment on the board and ask each student to read quietly.

              Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or

              abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or                       

previous condition of servitude.

 

              Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate                      

legislation.

 

12. Discuss        How does this build on the previous Reconstruction amendments?

 

 

13. Lecture       Present the timeline of events in a classroom lecture.

                            1871     

Force Acts Continue: Enforcement Act of 1871, Ku Klux Klan Act (serves

to enforce the 14th Amendment)

                            1872     

Freedmen’s Bureau abolished

                                          Election of 1872: Grant vs. Greeley

 

14. Song            Song activity: “Ku-Klux Song”

Distribute a copy of the lyrics to each student. Play instrumental version of “Dixie” without telling the students. Ask them to think through the lyrics as the melody plays on in the background, giving them signposts as you go: “Verse 1, Verse 2,” et cetera. Break up into small groups and discuss the focus questions.

 

15. Research    Each student will use the website Chronicling America (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) to search for primary source accounts of the KKK in the Reconstruction Era. Setting time boundaries for the years 1865-1875, students will find two articles that discuss the KKK, one from a Northern state and one from a Southern state. They will present their articles with a brief     summary at the start of the next class period.

 

 

* * *

 

Part II:             Changing Ideologies in the 1910s and 1920s:

Americanism and Foreignness, Patriotism and Nationalism,

Religion and Discrimination

This lesson is centered on the changing politics around race, religion, and ethnicity in the early 20th century. It picks up in our chronological history after the military involvement in World War I and the introduction of social issues such as Prohibition and the women's suffrage movement.

0. Research/     Each student will use the website Chronicling America to search for primary

    Write              source accounts of Billy Sunday and Homer Rodeheaver. The students will (a)                                   

cite a minimum of 5 separate sources with a range of views in both footnote and                                 

bibliographic style, and (b) use quoted evidence from each of their sources to                                      

answer the following question: What was Billy Sunday's goal in preaching, and                                  

how did America respond to his message? There is no length requirement. They

                            will hand in their essays following the discussion at the beginning of class.

 

1. Discuss          Open the class with a guided discussion through their written essays. First, ask for

                            Billy Sunday's words. Did any students find his published sermons? Did they cite                                          

quotes from the man himself? Are there any accounts from Homer Rodeheaver?                                 

Encourage students to share the evidence they used in their essays. Turn to                                         

reception, asking students how others in America responded to Sunday and                                         

Rodeheaver. Who supported the Sunday mission? Who opposed it? Why? Accept                             the written essays from students after the discussion.

2. Song              Song activity: "The Old Rugged Cross"

                            Do not distribute a copy of the lyrics to this song, but play the historical recording

                            of Homer Rodeheaver and Mrs. William Asher singing the hymn for students to

                            listen to. After the first hearing, ask them to write down the takeaway message                                   

from the song in thirty seconds or less. Play the song a second time, asking the                                    

students to summarize the message of the hymn, verse-by-verse. Guide them                                       

through the focus questions for a class discussion.

 

3. Lecture         Introduce the issue of ethnicity and religion in America, walking students through                            

the arrival of Puritans and waves of immigration by country. Taking care to

                            address the issue sensitively and avoid generalizations (i.e. "All Italian-Americans                 

in the 19th c. were Catholic), discuss the connection between country of origin                                 

and religion in the 19th and early 20th century: Protestantism, Catholicism,                                   

Judaism, Orthodoxy, Buddhism, Confucianism, atheism, etc. Next introduce the

                            issue of language and religion in America and the idea of the church as an

                            institution that preserves language and cultural identity, emphasizing the use of                                   

English or other European languages (especially German in Lutheran churches) in                 

Protestant churches, the use of Latin in Catholic churches (until Vatican II in the

                            1960s), the use of Greek or Church Slavonic in Orthodox churches, and the use of                            

Hebrew in synagogues. Using excerpts from Will Herberg's classic Protestant,

                            Catholic, Jew: An Essay in American Religious Sociology, introduce students to                                  

America as a "triple melting pot" wherein specific national boundaries fell away,

                            leaving behind divisions of religion that could not be crossed.

4. Discuss          Does the "triple melting pot" work? Does it include everyone in the United States

                            in the 1910s and 1920s? Who does it miss out on, if anyone? Does it still apply to

                            the United States today?

5. Discuss          Return to "The Old Rugged Cross" for the final focus questions. Who is "The Old

                            Rugged Cross" for -- Protestants, Catholics, Jews?

6. Lecture         Present the history of US immigration laws in a classroom lecture. Helpful                               

timelines to organize this can be found at Digital History Online.                                                               (http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/historyonline/immigration_chron.cfm)

                            1790      Naturalization Act: requires 2 years of residency in the US before

                                          applying for citizenship for "free white persons"

                            1795      Naturalization Act: requires 5 years of residency prior to citizenship                                                    

application AND applicant must give notice 3 years prior to application 

for "free white persons"

                            1798      Naturalization Act: requires 14 years of residency and notice 5 years prior

                                          to application for citizenship for "free white persons"

                            1875      Page Act: ambiguous laws restricting contract workers from Asia

                            1882      Chinese Exclusion Act: prohibited immigration of Chinese, provided

                                          deportation of illegals, encouraged first large wave of illegal immigration

                            1891      Immigration Act: first comprehensive set of immigration laws, creation of

                                          Immigration Bureau

                            1921      Emergency Quota Act: limited immigration to 3% by country of origin                                                  

based on the 1910 census in order to keep the ethnic makeup the same

                            1924      Immigration Act: increasingly restrictive law that shifted the quota to 2%

                                          by country of origin of the 1890 census

                            1952      Immigration and Nationality Act: opens citizenship to skilled workers

                            1965      National origin quotas are finally removed, visa system created

                            ****      Instruct students that you will pick up the immigration issue again in the

                                          1960s. It is included here to remind them that the decisions made in this                                                

era (1920s) stood unchecked for roughly four decades.

7. Read             Display the following quotation from Theodore Roosevelt, given at a speech to a

                            primarily Irish Catholic audience of members of the Knights of Columbus at                                    

Carnegie Hall on Columbus Day 1915. Ask a student to read it aloud.

                            "There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to

                            hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very                              

best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born         

abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all … The one           

absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility

of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans,      English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic … There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a     

good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an

American and nothing else."

 

8. Discuss         Return to "The Old Rugged Cross" for the final focus questions. Who is "The Old

                            Rugged Cross" for -- Anglo-Saxons, German-Americans, "Americans"?

             

9. Lecture         Introduce the Great Migration through images, maps, and primary source

                            documents found on the website In Motion: The African-American Migration

                            Experience. (http://www.inmotionaame.org/migrations/landing.cfm?migration=8)

10. Lecture       Introduce the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1910s, and track the number

                            of changes to this revised KKK: an emphasis on patriotism, "100%

                            Americanism," a political bid for power (as seen in candidates such as Harry S.

                            Truman and Robert Byrd with KKK affiliations), anti-Catholic sentiment, the                                     

image of the burning cross, and more.  The first KKK was exclusively located in t

                            the Democratic party and the American South, while the second KKK courted                                   

Republicans and Democrats, and geographically expanded through the South and                              

the Midwest, with a large population in Indiana. At its height in the mid-1920s,                                        

there were an estimated 4-6 million members.

11. Show           Consider showing a brief clip or a film still of a burning cross from the successful                               

and popular early film The Birth of a Nation to demonstrate the origins of the                                      

iconic emblem of KKK intimidation and destruction.

12. Song            Song Activity: "The Bright Fiery Cross"

                            Display an image of the sheet music for "The Bright Fiery Cross." Begin

                            discussing the focus questions for before listening to the music. Next choose one                                

of two tactics: Either remind them of the melody of "The Old Rugged Cross" by

                            playing them an excerpt of the Homer Rodeheaver recording, or have the class                                    

hum or sing through the verse and chorus on a neutral syllable. Display the sheet                                 

music for "The Bright Fiery Cross" and have the students read through the lyrics.                                

                            Note: I do not believe it is appropriate for any class to sing these lyrics aloud.                                     

Asking students to embody the words themselves in song is quite different from

                            reading the words from this primary source. Please be sensitive to your students                  

throughout this activity. Be prepared to discuss the importance in                                             

understanding why acts and ideologies of hate exist in order to make different                                   

choices and prevent the past from repeating itself.


                            Asking the students to work quietly on their own, distribute a copy of the                                             

Compare and Contrast Handout above to each student. Give them a few minutes                               

in silence to read over both texts, and ask them to use highlighters or colored                              

pencils. First, identify places where the texts are exactly the same and mark them                              in the first color. For example, they can highlight "So I'll cherish" and "cross" in                                

this color. Secondly, identify key changes made to the KKK text, highlighting the                                    

different words in the second color. "The Bright Fiery" and "the old rugged" can                                       

be highlighted in the second color. When students have completed this exercise,                              

continue with the focus questions.

13. Write          Distribute the handout "The Twenties in Contemporary Commentary: The Ku

Klux Klan" from the National Humanities Center's America in Class.                                                      (http://americainclass.org/sources/becomingmodern/divisions/text1/                                            

colcommentaryklan.pdf) Using the primary sources in the handout, students will                                 

write a 2-page essay on the different portrayals of the Klan in the pro- and anti-                               

Klan publications and cartoons, in the general circulation and African-American                                      

publications. How does point of view shape the way you write history? This will                                   

be due at the start of the next class period.

 

CLOSURE:    

Reserve 17 minutes at the end of the final class period for the History Detectives episode about "The Bright Fiery Cross."

 

If you can only reserve 10 minutes of class time, use the first two minutes of the episode, in which the host sensitively discusses the importance of talking about the KKK today, and cut to 8:20 to watch the final 8 minutes of the episode.

 

In those final 8 minutes, the students will hear an early recording of "The Bright Fiery Cross," watch a discussion of the Protestant origins of the hymn, and learn how the recording of the song turns the KKK connection on its head: not only was the record produced by Italian-Americans (not KKK approved), but the same producers made the first recording of legendary artist Louis Armstrong playing solo trumpet. The host of the show sums it up at the end of the episode: "So these songs really represent the contradiction of race in America. That you would have the same engineer producing "The Bright Fiery Cross" for the purposes of the Klan also producing this beautiful music which becomes historic and groundbreaking. We can only speculate on [the producer's] motivation. The contradictions between his political beliefs and his work illustrate the complex racial environment of the time." This allows the class to end on a positive note, seeing both the fall of the Klan from their heights of power and the rise of something beautiful in Louis Armstrong's jazz.

 

EVALUATION:

Assessment in this unit includes research assignments, writing assignments, and brief presentations. All are included in the procedures listed above.

REFLECTION:

This project has been challenging and fruitful. Since the topics of discrimination and hate crimes are an important and controversial part of American history, I encourage all teachers to talk to their principals and parents about the content of the lesson plan and the incorporation of the song "The Bright Fiery Cross" into the classroom.

 

I believe the best approach to this material is to provide students with both primary sources to interrogate and an expansive historical framework within which to understand and interpret them. Hearing people explain their beliefs in their own words (and in their own songs) is the most powerful way to understand why they make the choices they are making.

 

From a pedagogical standpoint, the most challenging part of incorporating this music into the classroom is the lack of recordings. However, all the music in this lesson is new lyrics to familiar tunes. Depending on how frequently you use music or how musically oriented your students happen to be, you have a few different choices to tackle this problem. The key is familiarizing students with the melodies before giving them the texts. If they are familiar with the tunes, they will be able to follow along with the newly composed texts. Your options for familiarizing students with the melodies in the classroom include (1) playing a recording of the original song, (2) playing a recording of an instrumental version of the original song, (3) leading the class in singing the original song, and (4) leading the class in humming the original song.

 

 

 

Copyright 2011-2016 Center for American Music, University of Pittsburgh Library System