• Petitioned Oshkosh Area School District

This petition was delivered to:

Director of Curriculum and Assessment
Oshkosh Area School District

Remove the song "Pick a Bale of Cotton" from the curriculum

    1. Jennifer Chandler
    2. Petition by

      Jennifer Chandler

      Oshkosh, WI

February 2013


From Jennifer Chandler: TheTraeger Middle School music teacher has removed the song from the spring concert lineup. The OASD staff still has some learning to do. And I will; keep helping them!

The song is offensive. It's historical significance will not be lost nor dimished by removing it from the curriculum. Surely, other valuable songs exists that can be used to teach the call and response form.


I went through the formal request process with the School District to have a formal review. They did their review and they reported to me that music teachers in the city are free to use this song if they wish because

"This song is in reference to a time period in American history and is a work song which reflects the experience of workers during this time."

They cited a website that stated that the "singing moved the work along faster and made physical labor and drudgery a little easier to bear."

They also assured me that "Every effort is made to select music with text/lyrics that is not demeaning to any culture or race."

I responded by stating that slaves were not workers because workers get paid and had the freedom to either work or not work. Slaves did not have those freedoms and that their characterization of the institution of slavery in this manner was offensive.

I also asked for details about the "efforts" they made regarding this song.

The Oshkosh Area School District responded with this "We thank you for your concern and consider this curriculum matter to have been appropriately addressed and resolved. Thank you."

Oshkosh Area School District, Director of Curriculum and Assessment
Remove the song "Pick a Bale of Cotton" from the curriculum

[Your name]

Recent signatures


    1. CREATE Wisconsin

      Jennifer Chandler
      Petition Organizer

      http://www.createwisconsin.net/ Ron Dunlap, CREATE Coordinator. CESA 6 reached out to connect with me today. Ron has devoted thirty-seven years to educating young people from K-8 to post secondary levels. We had a fantastic conversation - Thanks Ron!!

    2. Reached 25 signatures
    3. Reached 10 signatures
    4. This topic may appear in the local paper soon

      Jennifer Chandler
      Petition Organizer

      I contacted the senior education writer at the Oshkosh Northwestern. He is going to pitch the story to his Editor next week.

    5. Reached 5 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Briana Cavanaugh OAKLAND, CA
      • almost 2 years ago

      Racism is everywhere and needs far more awareness than it's getting. Come on teachers, work it out!

    • Geoffrey King HORTONVILLE, WI
      • almost 2 years ago

      I am frustrated by the committee's response. If the school is going to teach the song it should involve an in-depth history lesson for the students. It could make for a great educational opportunity, but I feel teaching (and performing) it as an example of a style of music without its context is unacceptable.

    • Carol Bloemer APPLETON, WI
      • almost 2 years ago

      From the newspaper article I saw no reason that the school could not find a substitute song. If a song is offensive and isolates children in a classroom it needs to be removed.

    • Kamal Varma APPLETON, WI
      • almost 2 years ago

      It is not taught in a right context and that is why it is a racist song. It is a reminder of the slavery time.

    • Badri varma APPLETON, WI
      • almost 2 years ago

      "singing (this song) moved the work along faster ..." tells more about the plight of those workers.


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