Historical Information about the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’

I know I know it may appear as though I’m jumping on the band wagon and for all intents and purposes I suppose I am. I spent the past few hours researching the full contents of the poem that eventually became America’s National anthem. I hope you’ll take a moment and read the whole thing, I really want to hear your voice about this increasingly volatile subject. I also wish to reiterate the purpose for the initial action taken by professional athletes to take a knee while the anthem is performed, they chose to exercise their right to speak freely and protest in a peaceful way the continued assault on men and women of color culminating in the shooting deaths of a disproportionate amount of African American and Latino/Hispanic Americans by White Law enforcement officers around the country, who in turn face very little if any real consequence for their actions, EVEN when evidence provided shows blatant, beyond reasonable doubt, corroboration of what transpired. So let’s delve into the history…I don’t know about you but this is all new information to me, I’ve lived my whole 52 years not having all the facts.

As a result of the ‘War of 1812’ on September 13, 1814, Frances Scott Key, a 35 year old Lawyer and Slave owner, boarded the flagship of the British fleet anchored on the Chesapeake Bay attempting to negotiate the release of a friend and others who had been recently arrested.

Even though the release was obtained, everyone freed and returned to the ship Key had secured, their departure was prevented by the British.  Key and those he’d rescued were kept under guard as a result of their having obtained the knowledge of the impending British attack of Fort McHenry. From the deck of the ship Key witnessed the British barrage of the fort. He then wrote what was originally titled “Defense of Fort McHenry” a poem which encompassed what would become our national anthem. Let us not however forget the time period. In it’s entirety

“Defense of Fort McHenry”

Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro the perilous fight, O’er the Ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the Rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the nite that our flag was still there!

O’say does that Star-Spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep, Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes. What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep, as it fitfully blows, half conceals half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the mornings first beam, in full glory reflected, now shine on the stream: tis the Star-Spangled banner. O’ long may it wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore that the havoc of war and the battles confusion, A home and a country should leave us no more? Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:

And the Star-Spangled banner in triumph doth wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O’ thus be it ever when freemen shall stand, between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation. Blest vict’ry and peace the power that hath made a’n preserv’d us a nation! Then conquer we must when our cause is just, and this is our motto: “In God is our Trust”

And the Star-Spangled banner in triumph shall wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave! 

Now as we all know the first stanza of the poem is what via Executive order signed by Woodrow Wilson in 1931, was the basis for the U.S. national anthem. Lets explore further…focusing on the third and fourth stanz. As I mentioned earlier Frances Scott Key was a very prominent figure at this time as a result of his Law practice often counseling officials on legislation and his Slave ownership. Thus the third stanza of the original poem is believed by some historians to notably remark about the American’s defeat of the ‘Corps of Colonial Marines’, one of two units of Black slaves recruited between 1808 and 1816 to fight for the British on the promise of gaining their freedom. the stanza begins And where is that band who so vauntingly swore, that the havoc of war and the battles confusion, A home and a country should leave us no more? Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps polution. No refuge could save the ‘Hireling’ and Slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave’  the second portion of the third stanza (bold Italic) thus relates to Frances Scott Keys’ belief which was in line with the majority of his compatriots (peers), which was that ‘Blacks’ were “A distinct and inferior race, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community”. Bering his belief in mind, it is fair to conclude the enslaved black population of America were not included when he wrote the words land of the free. A logical assumption that one can arrive at is Key may have held a special resentment toward Americas black population who had the audacity to fight against the United States and thus align themselves with the British King.

In summary, Jon Schwartz (on the website The Intercept) writes “With Keys’ belief in mind, think again about the final two lines ‘And the Star-Spangled banner in triumph doth wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave’: Schwartz summarizes that the reality is “Human beings were fighting for freedom with incredible bravery during the war of 1812. However by Key glorifying America’s ‘triumph’ over them-“The Star-Spangled banner” then turns that reality completely upside down, transforming the killers (of the real freedom fighters) into the ‘courages Victors’ who gained the country’s freedom. An additional point to ponder is that after the U.S. and British governments signed the peace treaty ending the war at the end of 1814, the U.S. government demanded the return of American (Human)” property”, which at that point numbered around 6,000 people. The British refused! The majority of the 6,000 eventually settled in Canada, with others going to Trinidad, where to this day their descendants are still known as “Merikins” closed Schwartz.

Ok your turn where do you stand, what statistically based arguments either for or against, will you present. Can’t wait to read….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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