As the need for change continues to loom ever more prominently, many are asking their representatives in government to reflect the feeling of the people and reconcile with their past. One such proposal is that the American national anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, should be replaced with a new song.
The song was written by the slave-owning Francis Scott Key as a poem in 1814 with many arguing its harrowing third verse is prejudiced and does not reflect modern society. One popular suggestion for replacing the track is John Lennon’s unifying anthem, ‘Imagine’.
Many people will be protesting at this suggestion. ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ has been a longstanding part of America’s way of life and, in fairness to all those who have happily and heartily sung it, the offending verse is never sung during sporting events or congregations.
In the third verse of his original poem Francis Scott Key refers to a “band” of “hireling and slaves” whose “blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution”. Jason Johnson, a historian in the matter, has argued that the line is a sneer at black people fighting for the British in the war of 1812.
As Consequence of Sound reports, the war surrounded the control of the slave trade in North America and saw British forces, far from their soil and army reserves, consistently free slaves and hand them a gun to fight their captors.
Besides the inflammatory line of his poem, Key was also a slaveowner and known white supremacist. His unjust prosecution of a young Black man in 1835 saw the start of the Snow Riots and Key also called black people, “a distinct and inferior race of people, which experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts the community”. It’s enough to see his statue happily toppled in San Francisco.
It could be enough to see John Lennon’s anthemic ‘Imagine’ be instated as the replacement for Key’s most famous work of all. That, however, poses its own problems, with Lennon’s track record far from squeaky clean.
As the entertainment business continues to try and make sure they practice what they preach in regards to racial equality, maybe its time for America’s most treasured song of all to get a face-lift.