Antebellum Meaning: Here's Why Grammy-Winning Country Group Changed Its Name

The group had chosen the name after the antebellum-style home where they shot their first band photos.

The Grammy-winning American country music group Lady Antebellum announced on Thursday that it is changing its name to Lady A. The decision was taken in the light of the anti-racism protests ravaging the U.S. and the racist undertones the word 'antebellum' carried. "We are 'awakened', the group shared on social media.

It said that the band wants its music to be "a refuge, inclusive of all". The events that have unfolded have revealed the "injustices, inequality and biases black women and men have faced and continue to face", it said. Thus, it decided to drop the word 'antebellum' and move forward with Lady A, "the nickname our fans gave us almost from the start", the group said.

Lady Antebellum
Twitter/Lady A

What Does 'Antebellum' Mean?

Merriam Webster defines the term as 'existing before a war, especially the American civil war'. It roughly refers to a time period from the 1830s until the start of the American civil war in 1861. During this time, slavery was practiced on a massive scale, largely in the southern U.S. As the economy of the region was largely dependent on plantations, African-Americans were traded to work in plantations, mostly cotton, but also in sugar, rice and tobacco. They also worked in small farms, industries and homes.

Gorden, Louisiana slave punished
Scars of Gordon, a whipped Louisiana slave Wikimedia commons

Since they were considered as property, they faced widespread violence -- both actual and threatened -- had no labor rights, lived in cramped quarters vulnerable to bad weather and diseases and received inadequate diet compared to their workload. Work conditions were overall bad, but it was especially poor in rice plantations, where they had to stand in stagnant water for long hours under scorching sun. Malaria was rampant, with child mortality as high as 66 percent. On one such rice plantation, it was a staggering 90 percent, PBS reported.

Female slaves bore the additional burden to take care of their families. They often faced sexual exploitation at the hands of their white masters. The African-American slaves faced harsh punishments such as whipping, imprisonment and even mutilation, and were often sold.

Why Did the Music Group Choose to be Called Lady Antebellum?

The group chose the name after the antebellum-style home where they shot their first band photos. It reminded them of Southern styles of music that inspired them. They felt "regretful and embarrassed" to have not taken into account the word's association with the pre-civil war era, especially slavery, the group said in a statement.