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[Detail] Millions of acres, Iowa and Nebraska, 1872


Another form of poetry is the song lyric. Throughout American history, songs have been used to call attention to reforms aimed at addressing social issues, such as the abolition of slavery ("Hymns and Songs of the Anti-slavery Celebration of the Declaration of Independence") or temperance ("The Law of Maine [A Song Against Rum]"). A Keyword Search using the term song will produce a list of more than 50 songs, from comic ditties to the anti-Catholic The Convent CellTo the Arm and Hammer, a Communist song celebrating May Day; "A New National Song Under an Old Title (We're Coming Father Abraham)," a campaign song of 1864; and the popular "Battle Hymn of the Republic," written by Julia Ward Howe and published by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Soldiers in 1863. Analyze several of the songs listed above to answer these questions:

  • When were these songs written? How did these popular songs reflect contemporary events?
  • Which of the songs promoted a particular point of view about the events? How did the lyricists make their points of view known?
  • What popular songs today use similar techniques to express a perspective on current events? Do you think music is an effective way to express a perspective on issues? Why or why not?