Prejudice

Prejudice

Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific opened on Broadway on April 7, 1949. Several of its songs were about racial prejudice.

You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught

From year to year,

It’s got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

 

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

(from an article in Wikipedia) When the tour of the show reached a racially segregated theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, Rodgers and Hammerstein threatened to cancel the performances there unless seating was integrated, which it was. In 1953, with the tour in Atlanta, there was controversy over “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”. Two Georgia state legislators, Senator John D. Shepard and Representative David C. Jones, objected to the song, stating that though South Pacific was a fine piece of entertainment, that song “contained an underlying philosophy inspired by Moscow”, and explained, “Intermarriage produces half-breeds. And half-breeds are not conducive to the higher type of society. … In the South, we have pure blood lines and we intend to keep it that way.” They stated that they planned to introduce legislation to outlaw such communist-inspired works. The Northern press had a field day; Hammerstein, when asked for comment, responded that he did not think the legislators were representing their constituents very well, and that he was surprised at the suggestion that anything kind and decent must necessarily originate in Moscow. In part because of the song, touring companies of South Pacific had difficulty getting bookings in the Deep South.

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