The Truth About the National Anthem

Why should we never, ever stop singing “Lift Every Voice And Sing?” We show reverence to the “The Star-Spangled Banner” (aka SSB) and scoff at singing the Black National Anthem. There is something very, very wrong with that picture.

First, here’s the history behind the SSB and it’s author, Francis Scott Key. We all know the first half of the story on why he penned this poem. Yes, he was a prisoner of war on a British ship during the War of 1812. Yes, he was watching the American troops battle back the invading British in Baltimore. That’s what we were taught in public school. But there’s more to the story. Follow me as I present the “facts” …

  • Key was an aristocrat and city prosecutor in Washington, D.C.
  • Key thought that since blacks were mentally inferior, masters should treat them with more Christian kindness
  • Key supported sending free blacks (not slaves) back to Africa
  • And, Key especially had a problem with the Colonial Marines, a battalion of runaway slaves who joined the British Royal Army in exchange for their freedom. He really held disdain for these soldiers when Key and his troops ran into the battalion and were beat down so bad that Key and his soldiers fled back to his home in Georgetown to lick their wounds.

With that being said, one can understand Key’s mindset when he wrote the 3rd stanza of the SSB. In a nutshell, it is a diss to black people who had the audacity to fight for their freedom. Jason Johnson, political editor at “The Root,” broke down this history and worked on an excellent documentary about the history of the SSB with some students at Morgan State University. Look it up. This may be the reason that we only sing the 1st stanza of the song.

So, we should never, ever stop singing the Black National Anthem because it says something about our legacy, our heritage, and our history which is not taught in public schools. It addresses the pain, the victories, the opportunities, and the challenges that we, as a people, have faced in our country. Our anthem is as American and patriotic as the other. Sing it loud and sing it clear. Sing it so that every man, woman, and child will hear. It’s the African American story, hold it close and hold it dear. I’ve cut and pasted it below, so lend our ear.