As people discuss the history of the university’s famous spirit song, “The Eyes of Texas,” it’s worth considering both its present-day and historical contexts.
The song was written in 1903 in response to the campus desire for a UT song. For many years, thousands of Texans of all backgrounds and generations have viewed the Eyes of Texas as a song that unites them in their efforts do their best — and lead Texas to victory. It was, however, first sung at a minstrel show and taken indirectly from a Robert E. Lee quote, contextual elements that many people find offensive.
The context of the Eyes of Texas has changed since that first performance now that the song has been sung for 120 years.
Embracing the song’s meaning today should not stop us from seeing it’s complicated past, and acknowledging the many ways that people see the song.
In the wake of the protests over the killing of George Floyd, students are petitioning the university to reexamine the legacy of the song. One petition calls for acknowledging racist roots to the song, another calls for discontinuing its use at all university events, and a third petition from student-athletes asks for an end to a requirement they sing the song.
The Eyes of Texas – Texas Exes, History and Traditions