My Old Kentucky Home

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the song. For the Kentucky site, see My Old Kentucky Home State Park.
For other uses, see My Old Kentucky Home (disambiguation).
"My Old Kentucky Home"
My Old Kentucky Home 10th ed.jpg
Sheet music, 10th edition, 1892(?)
Song by Christy's Minstrels
Published New York: Firth, Pond & Co. (January 1853)
Form Strophic with chorus
Composer Stephen Foster
Lyricist Stephen Foster
Language English

"My Old Kentucky Home" is a song written by Stephen Foster, probably composed in 1852.[1] It was published as "My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night" in January 1853 by Firth, Pond, & Co. of New York.[1][2] The song was introduced by Christy's Minstrels the same year.[3]

Foster allegedly composed the song after visiting a relative's home at Bardstown, Kentucky called Federal Hill, but scholars have discounted the allegation. Richard Jackson believes Foster took inspiration from Harriett Beecher Stowe's 1851 bestseller Uncle Tom's Cabin and hoped to exploit its popularity. In Foster's sketchbook, the song was titled "Poor Uncle Tom, Good Night" and each verse ended with the line "Den poor Uncle Tom, good night." Jackson describes the song as "one of [Foster's] most appealing nostalgia pieces".[1] Abolitionist Frederick Douglass thought the song stimulated "the sympathies for the slave, in which anti-slavery principles take root and flourish."[4]

The song described originally an everyday scene on a slave plantation and was a beloved song in minstrel shows.

Negro Life at the South, by Eastman Johnson, is popularly known as Old Kentucky Home.[5]

"My Old Kentucky Home" became the official state song of Kentucky on March 19, 1928, by an act of the Kentucky legislature.[6] In 1986, Japanese students visiting the Kentucky General Assembly sang the song as a gesture of respect, but Carl Hines (D-Louisville), the only black state representative at the time, was quoted as saying that the lyrics "convey connotations of racial discrimination that are not acceptable". Within days, Hines sponsored House Resolution 159, which revised the lyrics to amend the word "darkies" to "people" at all official state functions involving the performance of the song.[7]

As the state song of Kentucky, Foster's composition is the official song of the Kentucky Derby. As early as 1930, it was played to accompany the Post Parade; the University of Louisville Marching Band has played the song for all but a few years since 1936. In 1982, Churchill Downs honored Foster by establishing the Stephen Foster Handicap.[8] The University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Murray State University, Eastern Kentucky University, and Western Kentucky University bands play the song at their schools' football and basketball games,[9] and the song has been heard in many films including The Little Colonel; Gone With the Wind; The Story of Seabiscuit; The Human Comedy; Animal Crackers; and the Bugs Bunny cartoon Southern Fried Rabbit.


  1. ^ a b c Richard Jackson (1974). Stephen Foster song book: original sheet music of 40 songs. Courier Dover Press. p. 177. 
  2. ^ "My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night!". 2008. Retrieved September 2011. 
  3. ^ William Emmett Studwell (1997). The Americana song reader. Psychology Press. p. 110. 
  4. ^ PressRoom (2001-04-09). "American Experience on KET profiles "My Old Kentucky Home" author, Stephen Foster". KET. Retrieved 2011-07-11. 
  5. ^ "Negro Life at the South". New-York Historical Society. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  6. ^ Kentucky Statues, Title I, Chapter 2, Section 2.100. 1988.
  7. ^ The change was adopted following passage of the House resolution and Senate Resolution 111. "The Kentucky State Song: Adoption of State Song". Retrieved September 2011. 
  8. ^ "My Old Kentucky Home: Official Song of the Kentucky Derby". Retrieved September 2011. 
  9. ^ "My Old Kentucky Home". University Place Patch. May 2011. Retrieved September 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]