a surprising musical chameleon

my country tis of thee cover imageMy Country ‘Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights, by Claire Rudolf Murphy, illustrated by Bryan Collier
published in 2014 by Henry Holt and Company

Okay, you musicians and history buffs. What do…

George Whitefield


American Revolutionary War soliders



my country tis of thee illustration3 bryan collier

Women’s Suffragists


A Sioux writer named Zitkala-Sa

my country tis of thee illustration2 bryan collier

and Aretha Franklin

my country tis of thee illustration bryan collier

have in common?

Answer: They’re all part of a surprising stream of people connected to the song My Country ‘Tis of Thee.

This song is a bit like a musical chameleon, I’ve learned, courtesy of this fascinating book by Claire Rudolf Murphy.

Many verses have been written over the centuries to suit a smorgasbord of civil rights causes.

First introduced in England, 1740, as God Save the King, its tune has untitled inspired colonists, patriots, fugitive slaves, schoolchildren, and civil rights activists. As you walk through the pages in this book, you’ll journey through time to meet these folks and read the verses they penned and sang.

Bryan Collier’s dynamic collage work and watercolors bring grit, diversity, history, and determination to vigorous life. 

Source notes on each episode contain added information and there are terrific recommendations for further reading and listening as well. Music is included on the end pages.

Great read for ages 6 or 7 and up. Well-suited for pairing with a huge swath of American history.