Primary Source: “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” (1958)
Barry Bradford, Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians:
Guided Primary Source Discussion Questions
- Why do you think the song was so controversial in 1949?
- Oscar Hammerstein said many people demanded that he remove the song because it “made people uncomfortable.” He said he would close the show rather than remove the song. Should Broadway musicals (and TV shows and movies) sometimes make people uncomfortable?
- Nellie, who is a patriotic, optimistic, hard-working nurse would have been born in the early 1920s. She thinks prejudice is just something we are born with. Do you agree with her? Are people born with hatred built into them or is it something they learn? And who teaches them?
Additional Online Primary Sources
- Watch a different version of the song, sung in context. Does it make the meaning clearer?
- Read the first paragraph of this essay. Can you see how angry some people were about the song? Do you think there are people who would still object to it?
Recommended Online Reading
Read this blog article about the background of the song.
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