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Stephen Foster (1826 – 1864)
This self-taught American songwriter wrote more than 200 songs in his short life, many on Southern themes, but Foster only ever visited the South once. He was born and lived most of his life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the summer of 1849, more than 1,000 people in Pittsburgh (population 46,000 at the time) died from a cholera epidemic, which was followed by serious unemployment. To help ends meet, the Foster family took a lodger into their already crowded home. Written shortly after these “hard times”, this song asks the fortunate to consider the plight of the less fortunate. It still speaks to us today.