The Star-Spangled Banner
After much talk and arguing over athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, I decided to take a visit to the library and do research on America's National Anthem.
Below is a time line of when and why the anthem was written and how it became the anthem.
Sept 16, 1814: U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised an American flag to celebrate winning the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key was a prisoner on a British ship and witnessed the flag being raised. Once the British freed him he was inspired to write a poem entitled, "Defense of Fort McHenry." This poem was his experience of witnessing the war of 1812 while on the ship. It was published in the local newspaper and soon became a favorite poem of then Americans. Even theater companies performed his poem as they would Shakespeare. At this time, it was a poem and not a song.
November 1814: Thomas Car took Key's poem and set it to the music of "To Anacreon in Heaven." The song, "Anacreon...Heaven" was written in 1777 by John Stafford for the Anacreontic Society. Thomas Car also renamed the song to "The Star-Spangled Banner." Star-Spangled Banner is another term for American Flag.
1814-1930: "The Star-Spangled Banner" was sung only during times of war and never at any other time or events (mostly). It was considered a war song. War songs were and still are songs only to be sung during times of war and specifically to encourage those who have recently lost a loved one in war. It was considered inappropriate and disrespectful to sing war songs on any other occasion. Most times war songs were sung in church.
1916: Woodrow Wilson ordered the song to be sung during certain (not all) government occasions.
1918: The first time the song was sung at a sporting event (baseball). It was sung due to World War I.
March 3, 1931: "The Star-Spangled Banner" officially became the country's anthem although many Americans opposed it. Americans voted for “God, Bless America” to be the anthem, but President Herbert Hoover wanted “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The government received 40 bills to ban the song from being the country's national anthem. Americans (including Veterans) felt because it was a war song it should only be sung during times of war, which is why they disagreed with it being America’s national anthem.
June 14, 1943: The congress agreed it is against the law to force anyone to stand for, speak, or sing the Pledge of Allegiance or The National Anthem: "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us."
"The Star-Spangled Banner" was never written as the National Anthem nor was it written to honor veterans. So, it is not disrespectful to sit or not sing along.
EXTRA FACTS: It is said that the one verse in the original song "No refuge could save the hireling and slave," is about Key celebrating the slaves would never be free. According to one of the books I read, although Francis Scott Key was a slave-owner, he was against slavery (I know sounds hypocritical). In fact, he helped start The American Colonization Society which helped about six thousand slaves and free blacks migrate to Liberia. Other free blacks stayed in America to help fight and end slavery.
There are much more books out there. Simply search the following: Francis Scott Key, War of 1812, The Star-Spangled Banner, History of American National Anthem.
The Flag, The Poet, and The Song: Author: Irvin Molotsky
The Star-Spangled Banner: Author: Liz Sonneborn
The National Anthem: Author: Joseph Perry