The Round Table

The Unknown Secrets of Our National Anthem

The singing of the national anthem before sporting events has become a national tradition, but we only ever hear the first verse.

The singing of the national anthem before sporting events has become a national tradition, but we only ever hear the first verse.

Ravyn Akins, Staff Writer

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As residents in the United States, we know that the national anthem is a song that is sung to show ‘respect’ to our country’s flag and the soldiers that defend our rights. Most people know the song as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the song celebrities sing before sporting events. However, it is actually a poem written by Francis Scott Key.  Key was a poet, an attorney, and, at one point, a prisoner aboard a British ship during the War of 1812 – in an attempt to save his American friend, Dr. William Beanes. In the midst of the war, Beanes was attacked by the British; this inspired Key to write the song, “The Star Spangled Banner.”

However, as of late, the song has been the central focus of the movement against racism.  The movement began gaining momentum once Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the singing of the national anthem before a football game.  Ever since, more and more athletes have joined Kaepernick in his act of resistance against Donald Trump.

What some people don’t know is that the national anthem is longer than that one verse we hear at sporting events.  So if there’s more to the song, why don’t we ever hear the whole thing? Before we get into it, there are some things you should know about Francis Scott Key.

First of all, Key owned several slaves.  He also abused his powers as a lawyer by prosecuting abolitionists. He also referred to black people as “a distinct and inferior race of people.”  By this he was implying that since blacks are “inferior,” their masters should treat them with more “Christian kindness.” Key was about as pro-slavery as they come.

The national anthem is composed of four verses – one of which makes a distinct reference towards slavery.  In the third verse of his poem, Key states “Their blood has wash’d out of their foul footsteps pollution. No refuge could save their hireling slave. From the terror of flight or gloom of the grave.” By this, Key insinuated that was the blood from the “hireling slave(s)” will wash away the pollution of the British invaders. Slaves in the War were fighting in exchange for their freedom, yet from Key’s perspective, it was acceptable for the British to obliterate the slaves as long as it kept the American soldiers safe.

So why don’t we sing the entire song before sporting events, graduations and the like?  So what if the song is a little lengthy? If Americans truly love their country why not sing the national anthem in its entirety?  To answer: it’s because we can’t; the anthem is offensive and could potentially create more conflict surrounding the national anthem, as we have already seen in the NFL. Francis Scott Key knew exactly what he was writing, even if he hadn’t intended to be discriminatory.  Football players are protesting by taking a knee for the anti-racism movement, and now we have another reason to protest the anthem.

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The Unknown Secrets of Our National Anthem