'America the Beautiful': the back story | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

'America the Beautiful': the back story

Posted By on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 9:07 AM

One of the most amusing angles to the conservative outrage at the feel-good Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial in which "American the Beautiful" is sung in foreign tongues (and by a gay couple) is the biography of Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote the song.

It was old news to me, husband of a Wellesley College graduate. But Talking Points Memo, in an article by politics professor Peter Dreier, has the full rundown and it's good reading. Bates, an English professor at Wellesley, was a lesbian with a longtime female partner, another Wellesley professor, in what was then known as a "Boston marriage." She was a liberal Republican, when such existed. A socialist. A critic of American imperialism. She spoke up for labor rights, women's suffrage and the poor. Read the full lyrics of her poem carefully and you can see what she was getting at as she gazed upon the natural majesty of America on a trip to the Rockies:

"America! America! God shed his grace on thee. Till selfish gain no longer stain The banner of the free! "

Selfish gain seems to be a new national motto. From the report on Bates:

Bates' circle of reformers and radicals — including union activists, feminists and housing crusaders — were strong advocates for immigrants. Bates and [her partner] Coman volunteered at Denison House, a Boston settlement house that worked to improve the lives of immigrants who lived in Boston's slums and worked in its sweatshops. Denison House was founded by their Wellesley colleague Vida Scudder, another radical socialist, feminist, and lesbian. It was
modeled on Hull House, founded by Jane Addams in Chicago.

Bates broke with the Republican Party in 1924 to support the Democratic presidential candidate because Republicans opposed the League of Nations.

Rush Limbaugh's cheers for "America the Beautiful" and jeers for its rendition in foreign tongue? Now you know the rest of the story. Some more history:

And as long as we're educating the Limbaugh lunatics and other broadcasting bigots about America's secret radical history, they might also want to know that the “Pledge of Allegiance” also written by a Christian socialist, Francis Bellamy. And that the author of "This Land is Your Land," Woody Guthrie, was a committed radical, that Pete Seeger, the folksinger who popularized the song and even performed it at Obama’s inauguration party, was also a left-winger, and that this patriotic protest song includes a little-known stanza that criticizes the notion of private property!

Coca-Cola has also posted a YouTube about the making of the commercial.

Tags: , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store


Comments (21)

Showing 1-21 of 21

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-21 of 21

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Federal judge reprimands John Goodson for misconduct in class-action case

    John Goodson  — the Texarkana attorney, D.C. lobbyist, and husband of Arkansas State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson — was reprimanded today by a federal judge for his conduct in a class-action case.
    • Aug 3, 2016
  • 'Million-Dollar Thursday': A visit to Sherwood's hot check court

    We take a visit to the weekly hot check court in Sherwood District Court, the subject of a recent civil rights lawsuit filed by ACLU Arkansas and others, who say the system there results in a modern-day debtor's prison
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • A response to police arrests becomes a tutorial on race, class and policing in Little Rock

    John Walker, the 79-year-old civil rights lawyer, and his associate, Omavi Shukur, 29, a young lawyer devoted to criminal justice reform, talked to press this afternoon about their arrests Monday by Little Rock police for supposedly obstructing governmental operations in observing and attempting to film a routine police traffic stop. It was a tutorial on sharp views of race, class and governance in Little Rock.
    • Sep 29, 2016

Most Shared

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation