The city of Pittsburgh has taken down a controversial statue of the storied American songwriter Stephen Foster that depicts the “father of American music” with a black man sitting at his feet, singing and strumming the banjo.

Foster, who was from Pittsburgh, is most remembered for his 19th-century classics, including “Oh! Susanna,” “Hard Times Come Again No More” and “Old Folks at Home” (or “Swanee River”). He also wrote “My Old Kentucky Home,” seen by many as an anti-slavery song.

Crews removed the estimated 800-pound bronze statue Thursday morning from Schenley Plaza, a public park in the Oakland neighborhood, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

The Post-Gazette reported last year that the Pittsburgh Art Commission voted unanimously to relocate the statue to a “properly contextualized” location.

A spokesman for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (D) could not immediately be reached for comment about the statue’s removal.

The statue, created in 1900 by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, has been a controversial monument, with critics saying it is racist and “glorifies white appropriation of black culture, and depicts the vacantly smiling musician in a way that is at best condescending and at worst racist,” according to the Post-Gazette.

Others, however, have argued that it simply shows Foster listening to a song by a black musician.

Foster was born on Independence Day in 1826 into a wealthy Western Pennsylvania family.

He died in 1864 — poor and alone — days after he fell and hit his head while shaving in a cheap hotel in New York, according to the New Yorker.

In the end, the magazine reported, Foster was selling his clothes for booze.

Though he lived just 37 years, Foster created a significant body of work; the Library of Congress called him “one of America’s principal and most influential songwriters.”

“Although penniless when he died on 10 January 1864, Foster bestowed on America a rich legacy of memorable songs,” the Library of Congress added.

All told, Foster composed more than 200 songs. Among them: A contentious minstrel ditty titled “Old Uncle Ned,” which he wrote in 1848.

It said, in part:

Dere was an old [n-word], dey call’d him Uncle Ned.
He’s dead long ago, long ago!
He had no wool on de top ob his head
De place whar de wool ought to grow.

Den lay down de shubble and de hoe
Hang up de fiddle and de bow:
No more work for poor Old Ned
He’s gone where the good [n-words] go.

Several years later, Foster wrote “My Old Kentucky Home,” which would later become the state song of Kentucky and is still played — and sung — at the Kentucky Derby each year.

“It is a tradition not to be missed,” the Kentucky Derby’s blog says. “As the University of Louisville Marching Band performs the music, the crowd of more than 150,000 fans raise their voices to sing along.”

In a 2010 interview with NPR, music critic Ken Emerson, who wrote a biography of Foster, said “My Old Kentucky Home” was inspired by the anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

“Ironically,” Emerson said, “here is a song that was inspired by a great abolitionist novel, and which no less a leader then Frederick Douglass himself singled out as a song that awakens the sympathies for the slave, in which anti-slavery principles take root and flourish. So, like all of Foster’s music, it’s thick with contradictions that, to this day, I think, are part of the American experience.”

The song goes like so:

The head must bow and the back will have to bend,
Wherever the darky may go;
A few more days, and the trouble all will end,
In the field where the sugar-canes grow;
A few more days for to tote the weary load,
No matter, ’twill never be light;
A few more days till we totter on the road,
Then my old Kentucky home, good night.

Then:

They hunt no more for the possum and the coon,
On meadow, the hill and the shore,
They sing no more by the glimmer of the moon,
On the bench by the old cabin door.
The day goes by like a shadow o’er the heart,
With sorrow, where all was delight,
The time has come when the darkies have to part,
Then my old Kentucky home, good night.

Then:

The head must bow and the back will have to bend,
Wherever the darky may go;
A few more days, and the trouble all will end,
In the field where the sugar-canes grow;
A few more days for to tote the weary load,
No matter, ’twill never be light;
A few more days till we totter on the road,
Then my old Kentucky home, good night.

Former Kentucky poet laureate Frank X Walker told NPR in 2016 that the song is more than a state anthem.

Walker explained that Foster was not a Kentucky native, “so he imagined, or he witnessed something that suggested that [it] was a great place to be a slave. My issue is that there was no good place to be a slave.”

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