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Women's History Month: Anne Custis Burgess


Every South Carolinian knows our state song, “South Carolina on My Mind.” But, did you know that it only joined our list of state symbols as a second state song in March of 1984? That does not seem so long ago, and our charming Palmetto State has been around for much longer. The song “Carolina” composed by Clarendon County’s own Anne Custis Burgess was first listed as our state song in February of 1911. Acting on the recommendation of South Carolina Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Assembly of South Carolina adopted Senator W.L. Mauldin’s Concurrent Resolution that “Carolina” be accented and declared to be the official State Song of South Carolina. The lyrics are based on a poem by Henry Timrod, the “Poet of the Confederacy.” Timrod’s poem was edited by G.R. Goodwin before being set to music by Burgess. 

Anne (Annie) Custis Burgess was born on Jan. 22, 1874 in Mayesville, South Carolina. She was the daughter of Dr. Thomas Lesley Burgess and Frances Annie Mayes. She grew up in Summerton. You can find a historical marker in front of her childhood home on Church Street near Burgess Street. A true musician at heart, Burgess studied music education at Converse College in Spartanburg. After receiving her diploma, she went on to teach music in Summerton, Williamston, and Winthrop College. 

Custis is a given name, and she never married. When “Carolina” was officially named the state song of South Carolina in 1911, the General Assembly mistakenly credited her as “Miss Custis.” She was working at Thornwell Orphanage in Clinton at the time of her death. She had fallen ill in the weeks prior and was brought from Clinton to Sumter, where she was cared for at the J. A. Mood Infirmary. Only a year shy of seeing her composed work become history, Burgess passed away on Oct.15, 1910. 

Read the lyrics to “Carolina” below: 

Call on thy children of the hill,

Wake swamp and river, coast and rill,

Rouse all thy strength and all thy skill,

Carolina! Carolina!

Hold up the glories of thy dead;

Say how thy elder children bled,

And point to Eutaw's battle-bed,

Carolina! Carolina!

Thy skirts indeed the foe may part,

Thy robe be pierced with sword and dart,

They shall not touch thy noble heart,

Carolina! Carolina!

Throw thy bold banner to the breeze!

Front with thy ranks the threatening seas

Like thine own proud armorial trees,

Carolina! Carolina!

Girt with such wills to do and bear,

Assured in right, and mailed in prayer,

Thou wilt not bow thee to despair,

Carolina! Carolina!