This post first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds
Kate Smith is a famous singer before and during World War II, whose version of “God Bless America” is iconic. In 1982, Smith was honored by President Ronald Reagan with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She died in 1986.
Stefan Bondy reports for the New York Daily News, April 18, 2019, that although the New York Yankees baseball team for 18 years after the 9/11 attacks had regularly used Kate Smith’s 1939 recording of “God Bless American” in the middle of the seventh inning, the Yankees ditched the recording this season and replaced it with different versions of the song.
In order “to take a stand against racism” — not because Smith’s “God Bless America” is racist, but because of Smith’s history of “potential” racism.
In the words of the New York Daily News, Smith recorded the song, “Pickaninny Heaven” directed at “colored children” who should fantasize about an amazing place with “great big watermelons,” among other treats. Smith shot a video for that song that takes place in an orphanage for black children, and much of the imagery is “startlingly racist”. She also recorded, “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” which included the lyrics, “Someone had to pick the cotton. … That’s why darkies were born.”
Smith also endorsed the “Mammy Doll” in 1939, which was based on a racist caricature of a black woman in the same vein as Aunt Jemima.