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Program Information
Hidden Histories
Lesbian Progressive Pens America's Anthem
Weekly Program
Jack R. Johnson
 Hidden Histories  Contact Contributor
According to Zach Ford at ThinkProgress, on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney likes to regularly quote the lyrics of that great American song, America the beautiful, suggesting that it refers to political and especially so called 'economic freedom'.... But does he realize that the hymn was written by a progressive feminist lesbian who composed it to critique our country’s greed, excess, and growing economic inequality?
Probably not.
Song writer Katharine Lee Bates wrote her original lyrics in 1894. They were as follows:
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!
She later rewrote the stanza, toning down the rhetoric but maintaining that wealth was not what made America great:
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
According to Lynn Sherr, Bates “wanted to purify America’s great wealth, to channel what she had originally called ‘selfish gain’ into more noble causes.”
Bates’ revulsion at the inequality and corruption she saw around her was shared by many others who became the core of the Progressive Movement in the early 1900s. The Progressives, of course, would be diametrically opposed to Mitt Romney's regressive ideas on so called 'economic freedom' which translate into little to no taxation on the wealthiest corporations and billionaires while the poor suffer a crushing debt burden. Not exactly Bate's vision, nor what the song is about.

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00:02:00 1 Jan. 13, 2012
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