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Episode 42: Maryland: The Man Who Gave America its Anthem with Sharon McMahon

podcast Oct 18, 2021

In this episode, Sharon talks about a 19th century American Lawyer, Francis Scott Key, whose best-known contribution to American history was writing the US National Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner. We all know the words “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave,” but what do we know about the man who penned them? Listen to learn the true legacy of Francis Scott Key, a man with drastically incongruent convictions about matters of national security, including war and slavery. Francis Scott Key will challenge you to question how we interpret and fulfill historic articles of our nation’s history from the Star Spangled Banner to the Constitution and beyond in the modern-day United States.  

Links to Full Episode:

This Episode Will Teach You:

  • Is the Star-Spangled Banner still relevant? 
  • Debunking myths about the Star-Spangled Banner? 
  • How was the War of 1812 more controversial than Vietnam? 
  • Why did the British set the White House on fire? 
  • When did the Star-Spangled Banner become the national anthem by law?

3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • Francis Scott Key was born into a wealthy American family of slave owners in Maryland in the late 1700s. In his adult life, he carried on his family wealth, becoming the District Attorney for the city of Washington DC and a slave owner himself. Francis’s beliefs about slavery were anything but consistent. As a slave owner, he opposed the abolitionist movement and prosecuted abolitionists in court. Whereas, on the other hand, he was also known for regularly defending the freedom of escaped slaves.  
  • There are many misconceptions about the origin of the Star-Spangled Banner and how Francis Scott Key came to compose it. During the War of 1812, Key was forced to observe the British bombardment of Fort McHenry from a ship anchored in Baltimore’s harbor. It was here that he found the inspiration to pen a poem titled “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” known today as the Star-Spangled Banner. Many Americans believe that Francis looked upon the infamous Star-Spangled Banner Flag flying during the battle and penned the poem, however, the flag wasn’t raised until the British retreat. 
  • Despite his patriotic contribution to the United States, Francis Scott Key has a complicated legacy. As one of the leading activists for the American Colonization Society, a group that encouraged the migration of freed American slaves to the country of Liberia in Africa, Francis did not believe that African Americans had any right to live harmoniously in the United States. Francis’ memory as a white supremacist is difficult to wrestle with in modern-day America, and even in that day and age, citizens mocked the lyrics of the national anthem, calling America “The Land of the Free and Home of the Oppressed.” Ultimately, just because the author of the US national anthem was an enemy of true freedom does not mean that the true sentiment cannot be achieved today.

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