Woody Guthrie, his guitar labeled "This Machine Kills Fascists," was a troubador of the American working class during the Great Depression. He wrote "This Land is Your Land" as a critical response to the patriotic "God Bless America." In fact, the song was first called "God Blessed America."

Photograph by Al Aumuller, courtesy the Library of Congress
  • On February 23, 1940, Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie wrote the song "This Land is Your Land." Guthrie was a famous American singer and songwriter who created songs about the people and places he encountered across the United States. Unlike many other singers of the time, Guthrie sang about real, hard-working people. 
    "This Land Is Your Land" describes the great places of the United States. It also reminds us that these places belong to all the people—"you and me," as Guthrie sings. Guthrie wrote the song as a response to Irving Berlin's “God Bless America,” a popular tune that Guthrie considered unrealistic. At the time, the Great Depression was not far in the past. The memory of ordinary people losing their homes and jobs was still strong. Guthrie's lyrics support the idea that the United States is open to all Americans, not just the rich and powerful.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    encounter Verb

    to meet, especially unexpectedly.

    Great Depression Noun

    (1929-1941) period of very low economic activity in the U.S. and throughout the world.

    lyric Noun

    words to a song or poem.