Lady Antebellum changes name to Lady A after 14 years, but why did they do it?

The term 'Antebellum' has ties to the south's history of plantations and slavery and the group has finally decided to acknowledge it

                            Lady Antebellum changes name to Lady A after 14 years, but why did they do it?
Lady Antebellum (Getty Images)

Lady A, formerly known as 'Lady Antebellum', have shared their thoughts on their name change and its importance at a time when the world is beginning to have more open and honest conversations about racial violence and police brutality. The American country music group was formed in 2006 and it comprises of singers Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood on background vocals, guitar, piano and mandolin. The group originally began their career as 'Lady Antebellum'. But on June 11, the Grammy-winning band decided to drop 'Antebellum' from their name amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests on account of the potentially racist connotations the name may have had.

The term 'ante bellum' is Latin for 'before war'. The 'Antebellum South', also referred to as the 'antebellum era' or the 'plantation era', is the period in southern history from the late 18th century up until the start of the 1861 American Civil War that marked the rise in the region's economic growth, specifically due to its reliance on free labor via slavery, which replaced indentured servitude on plantations in addition to its political influence on the federal government. During this period the country saw a sharp divide between abolitionists and those that supported slavery.

Dave Haywood, Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum attend the 53rd annual CMA Awards at the Music City Center on November 13, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee (Getty Images)

Following the abolition of slavery, the term 'antebellum' came to be associated with plantation-style architecture, which is precisely what Lady A had in mind when they first chose their name: the old South. "We were taking pictures outside an Antebellum home in Nashville and we were searching for a name," Kelley once stated in an interview with the Cheyenne Post. "We were going to call ourselves something like Springdale, or something, but names are so hard to come up with. I was like man that's a beautiful Antebellum house, and that's cool, maybe there's a haunted ghost or something in there like Lady Antebellum. We all thought it sounded cool, like southern rock."

But the band has now recognized that the name carries much heavier connotations. In a long statement, the group explained their choice, in addition to addressing their own ignorance in the matter. In the statement, the group shared, "As a band, we have strived for our music to be a refuge… inclusive of all. We've watched and listened more than ever these last few weeks, and our hearts have been stirred with conviction, our eyes opened wide to the injustices, inequality and biases Black women and men have always faced and continue to face everyday. Now, blindspots we didn’t even know existed have been revealed."

Recording artists Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum perform as the band kicks off its 15-show residency 'Our Kind of Vegas' at The Pearl concert theater at Palms Casino Resort on February 8, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada (Getty Images)

The statement continued, "When we set out together almost 14 years ago, we named our band after the southern 'antebellum' style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us… Southern Rock, Blues, R&B, Gospel and of course Country. But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before The Civil War, which includes slavery. We are deeply sorry for the hurt this has caused and for anyone who has felt unsafe, unseen or unvalued. Causing pain was never our hearts' intention, but it doesn't change the fact that indeed, it did just that... We understand that many of you may ask the question 'Why have you not made this change until now?' The answer is that we can make no excuse for our lateness to this realization. What we can do is acknowledge it, turn from it and take action."

The name change is one of many smaller steps that influential personalities are taking as the nation comes to terms with its own racist history and traditions. From the acknowledgment of police brutality and the racist history embedded in the law enforcement in America to microaggressions including the use of racist terms, the country is beginning to see a major shift that is long overdue.

Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum and Halsey perform during the 53rd annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 13, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee (Getty Images)

Lady A's choice is expected, but it is important to recognize that this choice has come from a group with ties to the south, a region that has quite a sordid past when it comes to racism and slavery, as well as county music, a genre that has long been accused of racism towards black and brown artists, including Lil Nas X and Beyoncé. Similar moves are being made by other artists and organizations who are coming to terms with racial disparity in their spaces and working towards making spaces more inclusive. More recently, sports leagues such as NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at their events. Also, statues of those with ties to racism and slavery such as Christopher Columbus are being taken down, military bases named after Confederate generals might soon be renamed, and even movies like the award-winning 'Gone With the Wind' are being removed from online media channels due to their apparent glorification of slavery in southern states. Additionally, celebrities and media publications are being forced to acknowledge their own past missteps and make their intentions going forward clear unless they wish to run the risk of losing the platforms they've built thus far.

"We feel like we have been awakened, but this is just one step," the band's statement added. "We are committed to examining our individual and collective impact and making the necessary changes to practice antiracism. We will continue to educate ourselves, have hard conversations and search the parts of our hearts that need pruning — to grow into better humans, better neighbors. Our next outward step will be a donation to the Equal Justice Initiative through LadyAID. Our prayer is that if we lead by example… with humility, love, empathy and action… we can be better allies to those suffering from spoken and unspoken injustices, while influencing our children and generations to come."

Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum perform during the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 15, 2018, in Las Vegas, Nevada (Getty Images)

Many took to Twitter to share their thought's on the group's decision to acknowledge their own shortcomings and commit to doing better. Writer and editor Noah Berlatsky quipped, "Lady Antebellum just dropped Antebellum from their name. No one wants to be associated with racism anymore, not even country musicians. It's really something."

Others, however, were less forgiving. One user stated, "I'm glad @ladyantebellum finally noticed this nearly three years after Charlottesville. It seemed pretty obvious to me then, the very first time I heard their name, but I guess I've read a history book," while another said, "In case you missed it... Lady Antebellum is racist and has now changed their name because of it." And many called out the band for choosing to remain ignorant till now. One user shared, "I refuse to believe anyone who named their band 'Lady Antebellum' after taking their photos on a plantation had NO IDEA what any of that meant or stood for lol," while another said, "HOW do you name your band Lady Antebellum WITHOUT knowing the origins of the name and the history behind it??... but sure, go ahead and change the name to Lady A."

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