A University of Texas committee formed in November to investigate the history of”The Eyes of Texas” published a 58-page report Tuesday that says the school song wasn’t written with racist intent but admits that its initial public performance was probably by actors in blackface in a minstrel show.
The tune, which was written in 1903, is normally played in sporting events, including before and after Texas Longhorns soccer matches. In recent years, as history of the song’s roots became more well known, it has become a controversial issue for the college, dividing the community.
“These historical facts add sophistication and richness to the story of a song that debuted at a stereotypical setting, exceptionally common for the time, but, as the preponderance of research showed, had no racist intent,” the report says in its executive summary” ‘The Eyes of Texas’ should not only unite us, but hold us accountable to our institution’s core values.”
The report recommended that students not be asked to sing the tune.
During a meeting on the Longhorn Network on Tuesday afternoon, Texas president Jay Hartzell stated he expected the committee’s findings offer a thorough comprehension of the history of the song for the first time.
“The expectation is that everybody will use this report as an chance to come forward with the exact same reality base and be in a position to have more discussions, certainly including with our student-athletes,” Hartzell said.
Hartzell was asked if the song had racist undertones.
“For me, the song itself doesn’t,” Hartzell said. “However, it was current at distinct times where those undertones existed. You return to thinking about its first performance in 1903 in a minstrel show. I mean, you can’t deny that that performance has got the racial undertones, and overtones, if you may. Hateful things. However on the flip side, if you look at the manner, to me, the tune was composed, written and designed. … It wasn’t designed for this.”
Last June, many Texas athletes shared a set statement through social media calling for modifications to make the campus more inclusive, including replacing”The Eyes of Texas,” in large part owing to its source, and a requirement that athletes no longer be asked to sing it. Early in the soccer season, players refused to stay on the area for the tune, before altering course in October after sporting director Chris Del Conte satisfied with the team and said he anticipated the Longhorns to stand together to honor the fans.
Hartzell dealt with some of the attacks that players confronted on social media over their stance.
“I really believe for [them ] some of the vitriol they have faced and suffered from,” Hartzell said. “I think that it’s unfair and they had been doing exactly what they need to do. They utilized their voice. We are in a much better place now than we were before because of them. … I wish I could protect everybody from hearing things that are hateful, but the best I could, we can denounce it and come to show them love.”
“My expectation is that we will get to a point where people feel great about staying on the field and honoring each other, whether it’s fans from the stands honoring the student-athletes, student-athletes honoring support by the fans,” Hartzell said. “But nobody’s going to be required or mandated to stay on the area. Or certainly to sing the song”
The committee was chaired by Richard Reddick, professor and associate dean for equity, community engagement and outreach in the College of Education at Texas, also featured 24 members, including students, alumni such as former Texas football star Quan Cosby, former and current associates of the Longhorn Band, historians, administrators and professors.
Reddick, who also appeared on the Longhorn Network, said the toughest part of this research was that there will not be any final resolution.
“There is no smoking gun,” Reddick said. It is an artifact of this university. It’s a part of our history, the foundation of The University of Texas, Texas, the South, the postbellum Jim Crow South. So those things are in there.”
Key findings of this report include:
The panel determined there’s a”very low likelihood” the line originated with Lee.
• The song borrows the tune of”I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” a tune with racist lyrics, most probably because it was well known and easy to sing.
• Performances at campus minstrel shows with celebrities in blackface, which lasted in the 1960s, are a”painful reality,” but the song did not appear to have been composed as a minstrel song.
• The panel’s 40 recommendations include teaching the tune’s history at student orientation events and allowing fresh alternative variations composed and/or performed by Black musicians.