Songs for Free Men and Women

Lesson Duration

“How can songs—moving speech, set to rhythmic music—shape hearts and minds? What do America’s national songs mean, and what feelings does singing them inspire? Songs for Free Men and Women carefully examines our major national songs, both to understand their words and to discover what they contribute to making attached citizens.”

America the Beautiful: What is the connection between the beautiful things we celebrate and the moral qualities we need and pray for? Reflect on Katharine Lee Bates’s poem, its celebration of America’s natural gifts, and its plea for brotherhood.

Battle Hymn of the Republic: Why does this partisan battle hymn of the Civil War become a unifying national favorite? Read abolitionist Julia Ward Howe’s poem and assess its interpretation of the Civil War.

God Bless America: Does America need divine blessing, and for what? Consider Irving Berlin’s tribute to America, released prior to the outbreak of World War II, and its call for national allegiance, gratitude, and prayer.

My Country, ’Tis of Thee: To what are we indebted for our “Sweet Freedom”? Reflect on Samuel Francis Smith’s song, formerly our de facto national anthem, and what it is that we owe to our ancestors, our schools, and to God.

The Star-Spangled Banner: Why sing about a flag? Why should such a song be the American anthem? Examine Francis Scott Key’s lyrics and explore the meaning of the flag and its relation to the motto “In God is our trust.”

This Land Is Your Land: What makes this land your and my land, and how does it belong to us? Compare Woody Guthrie’s populist anthem, written in the midst of the Great Depression, to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”


What So Proudly We Hail