In recent tweets this month, Donald Trump and many other political leaders have criticized the NFL, owners, and Black athletics on their stance concerning the National Anthem.  Critics claim that standing in silence at the playing of the Anthem is a symbol of respect and pride.  Some people believe that open displays of defiance, like kneeling while it is playing, are inappropriate at sporting events.  In other words, sports should unite us like the National Anthem does.

History of the National Anthem

So, it is worth considering how the Star Spangled Banner is used as an inclusive song of glory and perseverance.  The poem was written during the War of 1812.  A British fleet was attacking Fort M’Henry on September 14, 1814.  This happened shortly after a band of Black men were offered their freedom in exchange for fighting in the British army.

National Anthem puts Black man in his place?

It is worth noting that Francis Scott Key believed that the Black race was weaker than they White race.  He did not think that they could handle being soldiers.  Well, that band of Black men sacked Baltimore and Washington D.C.  If Fort M’Henry were to also fall, it would have been a complete devastation in out fight to be completely independent of Britain.  The fort was known for having one of the largest flags in the Americas.  So, with all of the bombardments, heavy rain, and smoke it would have been difficult to see it at night.  In fact, it is likely that the flag would have been lowered during the assault, to protect the flag pole from snapping.  We usually lower flags in the rain for this reason.  However, the next morning someone in the camp raised a much smaller, but unbeaten flag.  This inspired Key to write in poem.

Meaning of the National Anthem

But, his poem was far from uniting a nation.  In truth, he did praise the fort leaders and soldiers.  However, he also wagged his finger at the Black men who fought against his compatriots.  The first verse sounds like our nation survived a nasty attack.  The second verse points a finger at people who would leave the country.  The third verse defines a slave’s and ex-slave’s subjugation.  The fourth verse explains how Freemen (at the time, White men) succeed when they band together.

picture of american flag and national anthem

This song was not made to be the National Anthem until the 1930s, a time when extreme radical factions were emerging onto the national stage.  From a national point of view, the only thing that the song can bring together are White men in the military.  But, some people will argue that it is tradition.  It is our history.  Many things are part of our history and tradition, that does not mean they have to be part of our future.  An abusive relative may still be family, but you do not have to continue to live in that situation.  Jim Crow laws are history.  But, yet we still seem to have some White supremist tendencies in our legal literature.  A song that does inspire us to be united is America the Beautiful.  If we are to have an anthem worthy of bringing us together, it should be one that unites, not divides.

National Anthem History

The full story about the National Anthem can be found in the files at the Smithsonian.  This is a national recognized, non-partisan institution.  It is free for public use.  Share your thoughts as you see fit.