A song about people picking cotton was pulled from a middle school concert in suburban Detroit after a black parent complained that it glorifies slavery.
Superintendent Tresa Zumsteg decided Monday to remove the song “Pick a Bale of Cotton” from the program, said Gwen Ahearn, spokeswoman for the Berkley School District.
Ahearn said that when the song was picked for Wednesday’s folk songs concert at Anderson Middle School, there was no intent to offend anyone.
“As it became apparent that that is the case, we pulled the song,” she said.
The school is predominantly white.
The song’s lyrics include, “Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton. Gotta jump down, turn around, Oh, Lordie, pick a bale a day.”
Parent Greg Montgomery said he complained to school officials, and when he was dissatisfied with their response, decided to pull his 11-year-old daughter, China, from singing.
“It’s mind-boggling that people don’t understand sensitive issues,” he told The Detroit News.
China said: “They were bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton, and it wasn’t a good memory. It was disrespectful to African-Americans.”
Ahearn said there’s nothing derogatory in the song’s lyrics, but the district did not want China to miss the concert. “For her family and the school district, the best thing was to pull the song,” she said.
Earlier, Ahearn, while confirming that officials were considering pulling the song, had defended the choice.
“We used to sing that song when I was in school during the ’50s,” she said. “It’s like a Southern type of folk song. I remember it being perky. It was more of a song that people just sang for fun.”