The University of Texas concluded in a report Tuesday that its school song “The Eyes of Texas” was created with “no racist intent.” The report ends an investigation that began last year after the song faced scrutiny for its alleged racist origins.
The 58-page report was commissioned in Oct. 2020 by school President Jay Hartzell after a group of school athletes, particularly football players, demanded the school no longer use the song. Critics alleged the song includes a quote attributed to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and borrows its melody from an 1894 folk song with racist lyrics.
But the 24-person panel charged with studying the song’s origins determined “The Eyes of Texas” promotes a message of accountability and excellence as opposed to racism.
A committee of faculty scholars, students and alumni has completed its work documenting the nearly 120-year history of “The Eyes of Texas” as part of the university’s commitment to fully own, acknowledge and teach about its school song
Read the report: https://t.co/XJ32yf3HbJ pic.twitter.com/lKnqULcdSu
— UT Austin (@UTAustin) March 9, 2021
The researchers dismissed several allegations of racism, including the song’s purported links to Lee and racist lyrics borrowed from 19th century folk music. But they noted the song was first performed at a minstrel show on campus, where performers likely wore “blackface.”
“These historical facts add complexity and richness to the story of a song that debuted in a racist setting, exceedingly common for the time, but, as the preponderance of research showed, had no racist intent,” the report stated in its executive summary. “‘The Eyes of Texas’ should not only unite us, but hold all of us accountable to our institution’s core values.”
“The Eyes of Texas” was created in 1903 by two performers in the school band, and has since been sung at official events such as football games and graduation ceremonies.
But in recent months, the song has become controversial among University of Texas students. Protests against the song reached their height last summer as the country experienced a wave of social unrest fueled by the police-related deaths of George Floyd and other black people.
After a football game last October, the school team sparked outrage among some alumni when players chose to leave the field instead of taking part in a traditional sing-along of “The Eyes of Texas.” Emails obtained by The Texas Tribune last week showed angry alumni threatening to withdraw their donations if the school stopped using the song. (RELATED: Caden Sterns Says His Job Prospects Were Threatened If He Didn’t Participate In ‘The Eyes Of Texas’)
Hartzell made it clear the song will continue to be played at official events like football games, according to the Associated Press, reaffirming the position taken by the school last year.
“I hope we’ll get more to a point of mutual respect where if you choose to sing and I don’t, we don’t necessarily judge something about each other in a stark way,” he said.