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We Need a New National Anthem

View From Here

By David Mark Greaves


Thank you Colin Kaepernick for drawing attention to the national anthem, and especially thank you to Shaun King for writing in the New York Daily News an eye-opening column on the white supremacist history of the Star-Spangled Banner and its author, Francis Scott Key.

In explaining why he will never stand for the Star-Spangled Banner again, King writes, “Key’s full poem actually has a third stanza which few of us have ever heard. In it, he openly celebrates the murder of slaves. Yes, really.


“It goes like this:

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.


“While it has always been known that the song was written during American slavery and that when those words about this nation being the “land of the free” didn’t apply to the millions who had been held in bondage, few of us had any idea that the song itself was rooted in the celebration of slavery and the murder of Africans in America, who were being hired by the British military to give them strength not only in the War of 1812, but in the Battle of Fort McHenry of 1814. These black men were called the Corps of Colonial Marines and they served valiantly for the British military. Key despised them. He was glad to see them experience terror and death in war — to the point that he wrote a poem about it. That poem is now our national anthem.”

And as for Key himself, King says, “He came from generations of plantation-owning bigots. They got wealthy off of it. Key, as District Attorney of Washington, fought for slavery and against abolitionists every chance he got”.

Let “America the Beautiful” be the anthem.   I join Mr. King when he says, “I’ll never stand for that other song again”.

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