Administrators have denied a local school was racist after pupils sang a song about slavery-era "cotton picking".

The incident occurred at Springfield Middle School in Lucas County, Ohio, during a concert held on Thursday night (October 19).

The schoolchildren were seen reciting lyrics from a song entitled 'Cotton Needs Picking' which some parents saw as an offensive reference to slavery and America's exploitation of black workers.

Some of the lyrics included the lines: "We're going to pick all over this field." They also chanted: "We planted this cotton in April, under the light of the moon."

A video of the performance was uploaded to Facebook by one of the concerned parents, Nicole Maulsby, but was later taken down.

In the video, a black parent in the audience was seen mouthing "Oh my god", to the camera when she heard the lyrics of the song. Ms. Maulsby's African-American partner, Alonzo, also walked out of the performance in protest.

"Come on Springfield. This is the song you sing just a week after the confederate flag issue?" said local radio host Charlie Mack in response to the video.

District superintendent, Matt Geha, denied any racist connotations in the lyrics and said that the song was taken from a book of American folk songs. He said he had not personally received calls from angry parents but said he was aware of the debate circulating on social media.

"I know that timing can sound bad, but it's a historical component for what the choir department had to use for their curriculum," he said. He added that rehearsals for the song had begun in August.

Springfield High School had come in for severe criticism earlier this month after a confederate flag, a divisive symbol of pro-segregation America, was seen flying at a recent Christian youth event. Students took pictures of the flag outside the school and posted them to Snapchat and other social media channels. One post reportedly contained a racially-charged phrase.

Speaking to the Toledo Blade, Geha said: "I don't want anyone to have a poor impression of Springfield at all, but when it comes to having all our children and adults work together and get to know each other, there's a lot of work we need to do."

According to official statistics 18% black and 65% white students are enrolled at the school.