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My Country, 'Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights
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My Country, 'Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  108 ratings  ·  39 reviews
More than any other, one song traces America’s history of patriotism and protest.


Everyone knows the words to “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” What most don’t realize is that this iconic song has been a beacon of change for hundreds of years. Generations of protesters and civil rights pioneers have created new lyrics, beginning in royalist Britain and continuing through conflic
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  108 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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This fascinating historical study of the well-known patriotic song "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" provides information on its background and how protesters through the ages revised its verses. Doing so allowed them to make the song their own and allowed their voices and causes to be heard. The author traces the song's journey from its beginnings in England as "God Save the King" all the way through its use during fights for suffrage for women and civil rights for African-Americans. The text and lumi ...more
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked as a children’s librarian. It doesn’t matter how many books for kids you’ve read or how much of your life is dedicated to bringing them to the reading public. What I love so much about my profession is the fact that I can always be surprised. Take My Country, ‘Tis of Thee by Claire Rudolf Murphy as a prime example. I admit that when I glanced at the cover I wasn’t exactly enthralled. After all, this isn’t exactly the first book to give background informat ...more
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Song and civil rights requests
Recommended to June by:
Really enjoyed the history and various versions of the song. I found the 1795 version still appropriate today.

"God save each Female's right,
Show to her ravished sight
Woman is Free;
Let Freedom's voice prevail,
And draw aside the veil,
Supreme Effulgence hail,
Sweet Liberty."

Again in 1920:

"Our country, now from thee
Claim we our liberty,
In freedom's name.
Guarding home's altar fires,
Daughters of patriot sires,
Their zeal our own inspires,
Justice to claim."

Also an older labor song seems apt.

"My country,
Shaeley Santiago
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, profdev
History of the song, beginning with its roots as "God Save the Queen." Traces new verses of the song written to advocate for various movements in history such as women's suffrage and the Civil Rights movement.

End notes in book are a fascinating read of where various new verses were published.
Edward Sullivan
Informative, enlightening and fascinating with exceptional illustrations by Bryan Collier.
May 29, 2016 rated it liked it
To be honest the art was a slapdash mix of watercolor and collage and photography, and it was not well-done in my opinion. But the message, is important, and is well written.
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another of the books I retrieved from our local library's semi-annual book sale as I needed more children's books for my Little Free Library. This is one I chose to read before putting it in the library as it looked so good. And it was! If you have young children, 5 and up, this is a great book for them. We still have a way to go to be sure everyone in the United States who is eligible to vote is able to vote w/o having to deal with issues that try to take the vote away from them - which in this ...more
Amy Souza
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful book that explains and shares the many incarnations of the tune My Country 'Tis of Thee. It takes it from England to the American Colonies to many of our social change movements.
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book follows the history of the song “America” and how the lyrics evolved over the years to reflect the political exigencies of the day. Because it is such a well known tune, and because it is such an iconic statement of about the ideals of America, generations of protestors have changed the words as part of their struggles for rights.

The author explains that the song first appeared in England in the 1740s as “God Save the King.” She then takes the song across the Atlantic where the colonis
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My Country 'Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights by Claire Rudolf Murphy; Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Singing civil rights.
Pioneers and protesters.
Verse after new verse.
Nitty Gritty:
This is a book for readers, learners, and singers, ages 5 and up.
The main character of the book is a well known song — “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” — representing the history of civil rights as seen through sets of shifting verses.
This is a nonfiction historical
Any book with illustrations by Collier deserves at least 3 stars right then and there. However, Collier has done better work. The last three spreads with fairly modern history (Anderson, King, Aretha Franklin) were the best by far although p.22-23 was also excellent. The text was ok. I was a bit disappointed that there was nothing about the power of music in general. The text was only on this one song.The text was very interesting, but I feel that an opportunity to make the focus of the book a b ...more
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If elegance in writing is communicating profundity clearly, then Claire Rudolf Murphy’s My Country ’Tis of Thee is quite an elegant book.

Murphy recounts how the song “My Country ’Tis of Thee” has been adapted by various groups for various, sometimes opposing purposes. British loyalists and revolutionary soldiers, Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers, Abolitionists, Suffragists, civil rights activists—all have used their own versions of “My Country ’Tis of Thee.” As Murphy follows the song’s
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this to my three girls, ages 8, 6, and 4. It was interesting how each of these ages absorbed different amounts of information. They were all enthralled by the poetry of the different versions of the song, and for my oldest is was a great history lesson. I got a copy several months ago, but brought it out last night because my oldest is learning the words of My County Tis Of Thee with her Girl Scout troop.

I learned things about the civil rights movement from this book as well. For instance
Amy Lafleur Meyers
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Claire Rudolf Murphy tells the history of the song "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" and how its been changed to fit various times and social movements in the search for obtaining civil rights for all. The the tune began as "God Save the King" and was adopted by the patriots' cause for independence. It's been adopted and adapted by many causes by abolitionists and later those who sought equal rights. Murphy shows the history with the changing lyrics so one can sing along, as well as colorful illustrati ...more
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Use in American Girl Program- Melody Ellison.
Pam  Page
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one powerful children's book. Taking the song, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee", the author traces the changes that were made to the song over the years due to historical events. Starting from the origins of the song in 1740 when it first was sung by British who supported King George II to the version slaves sang in the South to Aretha Franklin's performance for Obama's inauguration, it is a fascinating look at the lyrics over the years and their reflection to history. Every classroom should o ...more
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
So, I wasn't as thrilled with this book as everyone else was. I saw aspects this book as "America was a horrible place UNTIL we elected Barack Obama". In other words, the typical indoctrination of our youth that you see in some of these children's books. I think it was more some of this author's choice of words. Furthermore, I think children of the age group that this book is targeted towards will have difficulties with comprehension.

ON THAT NOTE!: I loved how the author broke down lyrics to th
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Unless you were alive in 1831 it's probably hard to pinpoint when America, words penned by Samuel Francis Smith, was assimilated into your mind's cultural repertoire. It stands to reason it was probably first heard in an elementary school music class. For other individual groups throughout history it gave voice to their beliefs. My Country 'Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights (Henry Holt and Company) written by Claire Rudolf Murphy with illustrations by Bryan Collier ex ...more
Kris Dinnison
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Claire Rudolph Murphy has turned her keen sense of history and justice on a song that many people mistake for our national anthem. In this wonderful picture book, illustrated by award-winning artist Bryan Collier, Murphy traces the history of the song from it's origins in England through the U.S. to it's role in the Civil Rights Movement. She discovers many versions of the lyrics and encourages readers to write their own verses based on causes that are near and dear to their hearts. Murphy is a ...more
Sharon Lawler
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Illustrated by Bryan Collier in watercolor and collage, and authored by Claire Rudolf Murphy, the pair highlight actual alternative verses that have been written using the the song, "My County 'Tis of Thee". As the front jacket flap says, " ..this iconic song has been a beacon of change for hundreds of years." From colonial times to the present, new verses have been written for the American Revolution, the the suffragist and labor movements, for Native American and black civil rights. I had no i ...more
Nov 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
The song "America," more commonly known as "My Country 'Tis of Thee," is not the national anthem, but has played an important role throughout American history. This book traces its evolution from "God Save the King" in the 1740s, up through the various protests and civil rights struggles it has been used in. The author includes a variety of verses sung to the same tune, in the hopes that the United States would in fact become a "sweet land of liberty." A fascinating look at one song's changing p ...more
Mrs. Tongate
Oct 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
In 1938 opera star, Marian Anderson, sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in front of 75,000 people. In protest and patriotism she sang, but changed 2 words. She wasn't allowed to sing inside Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. This was her version:

My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
FOR thee WE sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the pilgrims' pride!
From every mountainside,
Let freedom ring!

10 year old Martin Luther King, Jr. was listening on the radio to Marian Anderson this
Would make a good classroom study. This book is begging for a timeline and taking some side trips with other novels, books, songs & art about the whole span of American History. I love that the ending asks the reader to write their own verses. A culminating project to study of American History and it's peoples' movements would be to study a social justice issue and have students write their own verses.
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
There's a very interesting history behind this song (which I grew up knowing as "America").

The author takes us through the story step by step, as one group of people after another adopt the tune and change the lyrics to reflect a particular cause.

Very effectively illustrated by Bryan Collier.
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
bookaday #70. Excellent nonfiction showing the history of this patriotic song and how it has been changed to suit various groups' purposes. Striking illustrations mix watercolor and photo collages. Good back matter documenting each spread's sources. Be sure to look under the dust jacket for a close up of one of the images in the book.
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
This picture book will be a great addition to the middle school library. It's bibliography alone shows the research. It tells a wonderful story (factual story) of a song and it's variations to serve people in despair, rejoice or unity. It encourages the reader to write their own verse. Great cross curricular activity.
Margo Tanenbaum
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A stunning new picture book illustrated by Bryan Collier traces the history of this iconic song, which has been sung in various versions over the years to express the longings for freedom and equality of different underrepresented groups. Told in a chronological style, the book highlights struggles by women, Native Americans, African Americans and others to achieve liberty for all.
Stunning, the progression of the text and how it connects the song and various civil rights events (for freedom, women, and races), is outstanding. The illustrations are lovely with painting and some collage to give them depth.
How the song God Save the King evolved through the history of civil rights becoming the well loved American song My Country 'Tis of Thee. This will appeal to history buffs and would be a useful perpective in understanding American history.
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A well researched and fascinating history of the evolution of the patriotic song. The writing is perfectly done for reading aloud and sharing with children.

Collier's mixed media artwork blew me away. Highly recommend this book for classroom use in grades 3-5.
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Claire Rudolf Murphy has loved history since she was a young girl; in fact she majored in it at Santa Clara University. Murphy is the author of fourteen books for children. A former middle and high school teacher, she is a member of the faculty of Hamline University's Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults. She lives in Washington.