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Mark Spivey
Mark Spivey
Francis Scott Key, author of The Star-Spangled Banner (1814). Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (digital file no. 4a31271u)
Francis Scott Key, author of The Star-Spangled Banner (1814).
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (digital file no. 4a31271u)

I pride myself of being a pretty good history teacher since I first set foot in a classroom some 13 years ago. I was a Political Science major at my beloved Prairie View A&M University, also minoring in History. Having taught thousands of y’alls children during this time has required me to keep learning and researching this curricula in order to mold young and inquiring minds into exceptional thinkers. Being a 1950s baby, my only source(s) of information upon entering grade school were textbooks. After I entered high school in the mid-70s, I became an avid reader of the Corpus Christi Caller Times and later the Austin American Statesman after watching my father dissect the news printed in them on a daily basis. Little did I know was that those newspapers were a “poor man’s encyclopedia” years before my folks could afford a 20-volume set of the World Book Britannica. Its distant information cousin, the World Wide Web, would be invented in 1989 some 12 years after I graduated high school. I had some pretty good (I thought) history teachers in high school; some who were Ph.Ds. They made the subjects interesting enough to me that I actually considered becoming a history teacher AFTER I played in the NBA, rode a spaceship to the moon, or designed the “8th Wonder of the World”. I guess you could say that I was full of possibilities back in the day. If I can recall correctly, none of my teachers ever dwelt too much on Negro/Black history in volume outside of the normal sprinklings of Dr. King, Miss Rosa, and Jackie Robinson. “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1974) and “Roots” (1977), were the first historical documentaries that described the plight of Black folk to youngsters like me who actually paid attention. It wasn’t until I entered college did I discover that African-American history was much deeper than what I was taught. All of my teachers prior to that time were White.

The first page of the sheet music edition of Francis Scott Key’s The Star-Spangled Banner, published in Baltimore, Maryland, 1814.
The first page of the sheet music edition of Francis Scott Key’s The Star-Spangled Banner, published in Baltimore, Maryland, 1814.

There’s nothing wrong with having White teachers; they’re some of the finest educators around. I’m friends with many. But, I wonder sometimes how many of them were taught history different than me? I mean, was slavery mentioned as an afterthought or was it detailed the way it should have been? I don’t even remember any debates on it until everybody started talking about “Roots”. Even then, the conversation was brief and rushed. I do, however, remember spending a lot of time learning about the American Revolution, Civil War, and the Constitution. In those studies I remember a Francis Scott Key who wrote the “Star Spangled Banner”. Most Americans refer to it as the “National Anthem”. We’ve all must have heard this song about a godzillion times. Before cable television, most channels signed off each night by playing this tune in its “one verse” entirety. Never did the mass majority of Americans know that our National Anthem had three stanzas. That, again, was in the 70s. Never did I realize the importance of this oversight until Gabby Douglas’ and Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to acknowledge the song in “patriotic” fashion. Questions is; what patriots are we supposed to be honoring? During the battle of 1812, British troops recruited American slaves to join them in their fight against the Americans. They were promised their freedom if the British won this battle. History tells us that the British did win and the slaves who fought were freed. All of this occurred at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. Francis Key was a wealthy lawyer who owned slaves and considered them his “property”. One can imagine how pissed off he was seeing Black men whupping white men’s asses in such a pivotal war in American history. It was during his observation of the battle that he penned the now infamous lyrics written in the third stanza. It only took some of us two hundred and four years to find it. For the sake of space, I will not write the entire stanza in this editorial, I’ll just repeat the one line that has pissed everybody off: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave”. Now, it’s your time to do a little research. Enter this line into the Google search engine and see what you find. Come to your own conclusions. Based upon all of the backlash surrounding the “true” meaning of the Star Spangled Banner, I’d like to know how our Historical Black Colleges and Universities will respond to it. This song is as racist as the rebel flag that flew over the capitol building in South Carolina. It’s also as racist as any other symbols of the Confederacy and as vile as the Jim Crow South. Should it continually be played on the hallowed grounds of HBCUs? History is forever being re-defined as the truth emerges from the dark vestiges of an evil America bent on uplifting and preserving a perverse white culture. It’s now time to sing a new song and a much truer National Anthem. Here’s one for you: “Lift every voice and sing…” God bless, goodnight, and keep yo families together…

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