Oh say can I see…. What does the Anthem mean to our nation? Remember people get things mixed up and often confuse meanings. Recently a NFL football player refused to stand during the National Anthem because he didn’t believe in the same idea most do about the Anthem. After I spoke with a handful of people off the street asking them what the Anthem meant to them. The consensus was it was a patriotic symbol. Some people said it reminds them they are free, others said it was a tradition they grew up with, and others said they just felt it stood for something good.

The National Anthem tells a story about the battle of Ft. McHenry. The meaning I take away from the National Anthem after reading the lyrics is a man of his time telling a story of one side verses another which we have attached a love of patriotism to. What I found in the Anthem was a story of men at war who survived a battle. I’ve always been taught from a young age how the colonies broke away from England. The reasons taxation without representation and the colonies being unfairly treated by England.

After doing some research from creditable sources I was reminded the way of life in the early 1800’s. The world was a humanitarian disaster. One population enslaved another from Serfdom in the middle Ages on up. The British slave trade brought an estimated 3.4 million slaves from Africa to America says historian, Professor David Richardson . The entire count from log books and insurance records of European countries total slave trade from Africa to America was 12 million. (Ref 5)

There are people angry over the wording in the Anthem. There is a lyric that says “No refugee could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” The passage suggests it is talking about hired help and slaves who help the British. As enemy forces attacked Virginia “negro slave populations sought out the British and aided them in return for a promise of freedom.” (Ref 4) There are reports of slaves defecting and fighting for the British and undeniably the slave reference in the lyric’s pertains to that situation. It is undeniable the situation for African Americans at the time was not humane or acceptable by modern standards. The National Anthem itself is not a racist piece of work. In fact the United States had begun its evolution to move towards ending slavery. Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution 1793 and was again supported by the Supreme Court in 1842.(Ref 6) Its unfortunate that slaves were mistreated and had to resort to switching sides for the prospect of freedom, but the side they ran to was no better. The British had a large part in developing the slave trade and established in American colonies.

The unfortunate wording in the Anthem pertaining to enemies of the United States doesn’t change the meaning that our country was still there. Our country is everyone’s country no matter what race or religion. Those who understand the importance of solidarity understand that is what brought the country out of slavery. The brave men who stood up for the 13th Amendment were Americans who understood the importance of solidarity. The  words written by Francis Scott Key were of inspiration to a united front facing whatever enemy fought against them.

I understand the feelings of some people who may think it is a tribute to an old terrible tradition, but that part of the Anthem has been taken out. I believe that is a testament of the progress made by the United States of America. The protest of refusing to stand during the Anthem says a lot to the people who believe in solidarity. If someone wants to bring attention to them self and stand out refusing to participate in tradition that is thought of as patriotic and united is a good way  to do that.



  1. http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2012/summer/1812-impressment.html
  2. http://www.ushistory.org/us/21.asp
  3.  http://www.stratfordhall.org/educational-resources/war-of-1812-exhibit-introduction/war-of-1812-stratford-and-westmoreland-county/
  4. http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc5400/sc5496/051200/051220/html/051220bio.html
  5. http://abolition.e2bn.org/slavery_45.html
  6. http://www.heritage.org/constitution/content/pdf/lesson-19.pdf

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