Kaepernick picked right fight in 'Star-Spangled Banner' beef
© Getty Images

Due to God's gift of curiosity, I have a rather extensive knowledge of American history and often write about the subject in my articles and blogs.

ADVERTISEMENT
But the Colin Kaepernick "Star-Spangled Banner" controversy — one in which the embattled San Francisco 49ers quarterback has been blasted by internet trolls and racists ever since he chose to sit as the national anthem was played before his team's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers — compelled me to do some research, where I have learned the racist origins of that very song.

Consider these facts about Francis Scott Key, author of the national anthem:

• He was a lawyer (I knew that), but also a slaveowner (I did not know that).

• Key used to prosecute abolitionists in court for helping enslaved blacks run north to freedom.

• During closing arguments in a case against Dr. Reuben Crandall, a man charged with sedition for distributing anti-slavery pamphlets, Key was quoted as saying:

"Are you willing, gentlemen, to abandon your country, to permit it to be taken from you, and occupied by the abolitionist, according to whose taste it is to associate and amalgamate with the negro? Or, gentlemen, on the other hand, are there laws in this community to defend you from the immediate abolitionist, who would open upon you the floodgates of such extensive wickedness and mischief?"

• Toward the end of making America for whites only, Key was a member of the American Colonization Society, a group committed to sending free blacks back to Africa.

• Most Americans are indoctrinated from childhood to sing the first verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner"; two of the more famous renditions of the song were sung by the late black singers Marvin Gaye and Whitney Houston.

But Gaye and Houston may have declined had they known about verse three (I sure did not, until recently), which boasts of killing slaves who joined ranks with the British during the War of 1812 to secure their freedom, as follows:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It is clear, then, that the "free" that Key spoke of was not for black folks.

• Gaye and Houston may also have objected to singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" had they known that President Woodrow Wilson, by executive order, first named "The Star-Spangled Banner" the national anthem in 1916.

Wilson, a Southerner and history professor by trade, was a vile racist who rolled back gains of blacks in the civil service system and lauded the wickedly racist film "The Birth of a Nation," one that made blacks the villains in a post-Reconstruction South and the Ku Klux Klan the heroic figures who saved white women from lustful black men, as "writing history with lightning."

Congress, in 1931, formally enacted Wilson's order into law, which was signed by then-President Herbert Hoover.

So, it is clear that Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and a man whom I and countless other Americans of all races were brainwashed into believing was a hero, was nothing of the sort; he was a slaveholding racist.

Now, some (not all) of my white friends and followers will try to defend the indefensible by saying that "he was a man of his times." But that is absurd, as there were other white men and women of those same times who were working indefatigably to secure freedom for black people by eradicating slavery. Key, like many white Southerners, chose a side, and his and their side was the morally corrupt one — period.

Some of my black friends and followers, just as brainwashed as I was until recently, may say "but it is tradition," or that "it unites us all," to which I counter, no, figures like Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Gabriel Prosser — men who plotted or delivered insurrection against their enslavers — would beg to differ.

So, too, would the great black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a man whose "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" speech is among my favorites and should be required reading for every American history student — period.

So continue your protest, Colin Kaepernick, and by all means continue to force us, the people, to confront many of the ugly truths about our "shared" American heritage and customs.

Hobbs is a lawyer and award-winning freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @RealChuckHobbs.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.