Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Jacobs, Michael. “Co-Opting Christian Chorales: Songs of the Ku Klux Klan.” American Music 28 (Fall 2010): 368-77.

When the Ku Klux Klan was revived in the early twentieth century, music co-opted from Protestant hymns, patriotic songs, folk songs, and popular music became an important tool for recruitment and entertainment. Klan songs, published professionally or at home, most frequently addressed topics of patriotism and Klan fraternalism. Many Klan songbooks printed patriotic songs and Christian hymns unaltered. Retexted versions of hymns with Klan symbols inserted were also frequently printed. For example, the little brown church depicted in The Church in the Wildwood is transformed into a burning cross in a Klan derivative, The Fiery Cross in the Vale. Secular music was often co-opted as well with lyrics changed to reflect the Klan’s anti-immigration, anti-Catholic, and anti-Semitic stances. The Ballad of Casey Jones and tunes by Stephen Foster proved especially popular in this regard. Original songs, printed both with and without overt Klan imagery on the cover, were also published. Surprisingly, African Americans are underrepresented as targets in Klan songs. There are even at least ten examples of Ku Klux Klan blues songs, capitalizing on the genre’s popularity to reach a wider audience. In all, over one hundred songs were co-opted by the Klan for propaganda and profit.

Works: Dora C. Goodwin: The Fiery Cross in the Vale (369-70); Anonymous: The Immigrant (372-73); Claudia P. Randolph: contrafactum on The Sidewalks of New York (373); W. R. Rhinehart (publisher): The Klansman’s Friend (374-75), Junior Boys Klan Chorus (375)

Sources: William S. Pitts: The Church in the Wildwood (369-70); Percy Wenrich and Edward Madden: The Red Rose Rag (372-73); Charles B. Lawlor and James W. Blake: The Sidewalks of New York (373); Eddie Newton, Wallace Saunders, and T. Lawrence Seibert: Casey Jones (374-75); William Charles Fry: Lily of the Valley (375)

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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