Racist Language in Oregon’s State Song to be Modified
The Oregon Legislature has approved changes to the lyrics of Oregon’s state song, "Oregon, My Oregon," removing racist language and making the words more inclusive if Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signs the bill into law. The resolution passed by a vote of 47-6.
In 1919, the Society of Oregon Composers held a contest for poets to submit their compositions “in which the beauties and the merits of the state are extolled,” according to an Oregonian article at the time.
The winning entry was written by judge and former state representative J.A. Buchanan of Astoria. Henry Bernard Murtagh composed the music.
The resolution's aim is to keep the same music of “Oregon, My Oregon,” to reflect the “significant cultural, historical, economic and societal evolution in Oregon” since the state song was adopted in 1927.
The new lyrics were proposed by Beaverton resident Amy Shapiro. Shapiro first hesitated to sing the state song with her students when she worked as a music teacher and choir director at Portland Jewish Academy 30 years ago.
“The changes we have proposed are small but they are profound,” Shapiro wrote in testimony submitted for the measure.
See how House Concurrent Resolution 11 modifies the lyrics here.
The breakdown of the lyrics being replaced:
"Land of the Empire Builders, Land of the Golden West; Conquered and held by free men, Fairest and the Best” in the first verse is replaced with “Land of Majestic Mountains, Land of the Great Northwest; Forests and rolling rivers, Grandest and the best” and so that “Blest by the blood of martyrs” in the second verse is replaced with “Blessed by the love of freedom”; and be it further Resolved, That, as modified, the lyrics of “Oregon, My Oregon” be as follows:
“Land of Majestic Mountains,
“Land of the Great Northwest;
“Forests and rolling rivers,
“Grandest and the best.
“Onward and upward ever,
“Forward and on, and on;
“Hail to thee, Land of Heroes,