The University of Texas at Austin announced Monday it would be keeping “The Eyes Of Texas” as the alma mater despite racist origins.
Own, acknowledge and teach about all aspects of the origins of “The Eyes of Texas” as we continue to sing it moving forward with a redefined vision that unites our community
— UT Austin (@UTAustin) July 13, 2020
“‘The Eyes of Texas,’ in its current form, will continue to be our alma mater,” the letter said.
Aspects of its origin, whether previously widely known or unknown, have created a rift in how the song is understood and celebrated, and that must be fixed. It is my belief that we can effectively reclaim and redefine what this song stands for by first owning and acknowledging its history in a way that is open and transparent.” (RELATED: Education Department Probes University Of Texas Links To Wuhan Lab That May Be Source Of Coronavirus)
“Together, we have the power to define what the Eyes of Texas expect of us, what they demand of us, and what standard they hold us to now,” the letter continued. “‘The Eyes of Texas’ should not only unite us, but hold all of us accountable to our institution’s core values. But we first must own the history. Only then can we reimagine its future, and I look forward to partnering with our campus community to do just that.”
— Caden Sterns (@CSterns_7) June 12, 2020
The announcement comes after a group of student athletes at UT released a letter on social media demanding changes around campus. Removing “The Eyes Of Texas” due to its “racist undertones” was on the list of demands.
The “Eyes Of Texas” first became a phrase used at the university after William Prather, a former UT regent and president, used it to address students. Prather was a student at Washington College in Virginia where Robert E. Lee first used the phrase, according to a report published by Texas Monthly.
“I would like to paraphrase [Lee’s] utterance, and say to you, ‘Forward, young men and women of the University, the eyes of Texas are upon you!” Prather reportedly told students during an address.
In 1902, Lewis Johnson and John L. Sinclair wrote the lyrics to “The Eyes Of Texas” and set the song to the tune of “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad.” The song was first performed at a campus minstrel show in May of 1903, Texas Monthly reported. The men most likely wore blackface while performing the song, according to Dr. Edmund T. Gordon, a professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology at UT.