“My Old Kentucky Home,” sung by Liz Getz

Thornton Blackburn was a slave in Kentucky before escaping to Canada. Many slave-owners in Kentucky -- where mixed farming did not require a big labour force -- made money by selling the children of their slaves to the owners of sugar and cotton plantations further south along the Mississippi River. There, the heat and harsh working conditions meant a short and painful life for field hands. Song-writer Stephen Foster expressed the sorrow of one such slave who had been sold "down the river" and who remembers his Kentucky home, his family and his friends far away. The words of the song were later changed -- "darkies" was changed to "people" -- and Kentucky adopted it as state anthem.

Stephen Foster, 1853
Smithsonian Folkways Archival

© 2008, Smithsonian Folkways. All Rights Reserved.


The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
’Tis summer, the darkies 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, goodnight.

Weep no more my lady
Oh! weep no more today!
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,
For the Old Kentucky Home far away.

Verse 2
They hunt no more for the possum and the coon,
On meadow, the hill and the shore,
They sing no more by the glimmer of the moon,
On the bench by the old cabin door.

The day goes by like a shadow o’er the heart,
With sorrow, where all was delight,
The time has come when the darkies have to part,
Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.

Verse 3
The head must bow and the back will have to bend,
Wherever the darky may go;
A few more days, and the trouble all will end,
In the field where the sugar-canes grow;

A few more days for to tote the weary load,
No matter, ’twill never be light;
A few more days till we totter on the road,
Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.


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