Lawmakers Launch Contest to Pick New State Song

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

Florida’s official state song has hit a sour note at the Capitol. Many lawmakers think it’s time to retire the pre-Civil War tune “Suwannee River” because of lyrics some consider racist. A new contest is underway to find a replacement that doesn’t offend people.

For decades Florida governors played the state song Suwannee River during their inauguration.

Not Charlie Crist, who was concerned lyrics using 1850’s slang to describe black people still hurts many Floridians. Senator Tony Hill says that’s why he’s supporting a new contest to choose a new state song.

“It’s the chorus about the ol’ darky longing for their home back on the plantation. It’s very offensive to a lot of people.”

Several songs and CDs have already come in to the Florida Music Educators Association, which will help to choose the finalists.

James Perry with the Association says Florida’s official song should be one all the state’s youngsters are proud to sing.

“We certainly want those elementary students to feel like it’s a good song for them and it represents their cultures and represents their state.”

Suwannee River has had the distinction of being the state song since 1935, and it is a song near and dear to the hearts of many Floridians who grew up along the Suwannee River.

Nonetheless, Gov. Charlie Crist is ready for a change.

“We can do better.”

Senator Tony Hill of Jacksonville and Temple Terrace Republican Rep. Ed Homan plan to pre-file legislation for next year to formally change the state song.

A website for people to make and vote on suggestions, www.justsingflorida.com, should be up and running by mid-May.


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