University of Texas Band Refusing to Play “The Eyes of Texas” Over Anthem’s Racist Roots

The fight song has ties to blackface and minstrel shows

university of texas longhorn band
The Texas Longhorns band plays in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Tim Warner/Getty Images

With multiple band members refusing to play “The Eyes of Texas” due to the song’s ties to blackface and minstrel shows, the University of Texas Longhorn band won’t play the song this weekend due to a lack of “necessary instrumentation,” according to The Daily Texan.

The band, which has not performed at a game this year due to COVID-19 and may not have performed anyhow, will not participate in the University of Texas at Austin vs. Baylor football game on Saturday after a survey of the student-musicians revealed several are unwilling to play the traditional alma mater song.

“Based on (survey responses), we do not have the necessary instrumentation, so we will not participate in Saturday’s game,” Longhorn Band director Scott Hanna said in a message. 

The song was played via a recording at the first two home games of the season against the University of Texas-El Paso and Texas Christian University and it will be played that way again this weekend, according to a statement released by UT president Jay Hartzel on Wednesday night.

“The Eyes of Texas will be played this weekend as it has been throughout this season — and it will continue to be played at future games and events,” Hartzel said. “While we would love the band to be with our fans at all our games, we never planned for them to perform live this Saturday. We knew this summer that, as we make our campus a more welcoming place, we would face many hard conversations. I remain truly optimistic that we will find ways to join together around our song, which has been so positive for so many Longhorns over the past 120 years.”

The controversial song is set to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” — which itself has racist origins — and takes its name from a quote from Confederate General Robert E. Lee. While he was the president of Washington College in Virginia (now Washington and Lee University), Lee would frequently remind students “the eyes of the South are upon you.”

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