Echols: Begone, ‘Go, Mississippi!’


Addie White

Replacing the state song will be the next step in creating an environment for everyone in Mississippi.

Madison Echols , Staff Writer

Following the unjust killings of African Americans Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a wave of social justice protests, riots and government-sponsored changes ensued almost two years ago, promoting inclusion and representation for all. Mississippi experienced one of them, shedding the state flag and becoming the last state to do away with the Confederate symbol.

The practice of questioning the inclusivity of monuments and ideals continues, now with the Mississippi Legislature challenging the state song. Though I don’t know anyone who could sing a few bars or even knows what the current state song is, I still feel this is an issue that needs to be addressed to ensure Mississippi remains on the path of inclusivity. Without addressing this issue, we enter the dilemma  of  choosing which parts of our problematic past are worth addressing, when the truth is all parts are worth fixing.

On a first-time read-through of the state song, “Go, Mississippi!,” not many would be able to find a reason for discontent. With uber-optimistic lyrics including “GO, MIS-SIS-SIP-PI, ev’rything’s fine, GO, MIS-SIS-SIP-PI, it’s your state and mine,” it seems like a catchy ditty to represent our state. While the current lyrics have no reason to cause substantial uproar, the beginnings of the tune do. 

“Go, Mississippi,” written by William Houston Davis, takes its tune from “Roll With Ross,” the 1959 campaign theme of Democratic Gov. Ross Barnett. The original song included the lyrics, “For segregation, 100%. He’s not a moderate, like some of the gents. He’ll fight integration with forceful intent.”

Three years later, Barnett unsuccessfully resisted integration of the University of Mississippi and legislators adopted the state anthem of “Go, Mississippi,” setting new words to Barnetts campaign jingle, which drapped the state song with a veil of racism and intolerance. 

The idea of perfection and complacency the song conveys through lines including “GO, MIS-SIS-SIP-PI, keep rolling along, GO, MIS-SIS-SIP-PI, you cannot go wrong,” and “GO, MIS-SIS-SIP-PI, straight down the line, GO, MIS-SIS-SIP-PI, ev’rything’s fine,” especially when considering the context of segregation and white supremacy during the time, are the exact ideas that Mississippi is working to rectify through decisions including replacing the state song. Given the song’s racist past and questionable message, retiring the current state song is simply the next logical step in changing Mississippi’s image for the better.

Though the replacement of the state song might not seem like an issue worth addressing, we can’t cherry-pick what parts of our racist history we want to address. If we deny the racist history of our state song, then the other issues in our state and our efforts to resolve them become performative. We need to push the wheels of change in Mississippi and address all issues, including our state song.

Mississippi isn’t perfect, but perfection isn’t what we’re striving for. We, as a state, should create a place that’s inclusive for everyone, and we need symbols to represent that. Replacing the state song will be the next step in that mission.