I received an email last week from an irritated reader that didn’t bother to leave his name. But given the foolishness of the email I suppose it was best that he didn’t. He email read as follows, “I thought educators were supposed to be intellectually honest no matter what? Then why are you blatantly lying in your op-ed about what that verse means? Is it to get black people riled up so you can exact some revenge for a wrong committed 170 years ago?” As they say sir, you are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. Quit f . . . [had to edit this foul sentence] lying just so you can stir sh . . . up.”
My rejoinder was uncomplicated and avoided foul language. My retort was simply this, “I won't be as unfounded as you were, and I am not a liar, nor trying to rile anybody up, besides everybody ought to be concerned about history, not just blacks. It's a fact that the Third verse is what it is. You need to study the Gaspee Affair, and about a dozen other issues before going off like that. Do some research before you make such outlandish claims. You will have to do in depth research, and I suggest you read ‘The Counter-Revolution of 1776’ by Dr. Gerald Horne, 2014, New York University Press for starters. I can easily prove what I said is 100% correct. This book is only one of many of dozens that provide primary source documentation that what the verse meant is what I said it did, By the way, this book has hundreds of footnotes which I have researched and extrapolated.”
Ill-advisedly, this fellow’s comments are without weight specifically since he didn’t bother to distinguish himself and lowered the dialogue with the use of unwholesome waffle. There are heaps of data to corroborate the claim, not an opinion, that the third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner is all about the resentment of Francis Scott Keys against British endeavors to emancipate African Americans from American slavery. I will quote it again, not from my own opinion as the critic claims, but from the Smithsonian Museum Website; “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.” Notice the part about the “hireling and slave.”
According to dozens of research books and this quote from Snopes, “There are historians (notably Robin Blackburn, author of The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848, and Alan Taylor, author of ‘American Blacks in the War of 1812”), who have indeed read the stanza as glorying in the Americans’ defeat of the Corps of Colonial Marines, one of two units of black slaves recruited between 1808 and 1816 to fight for the British on the promise of gaining their freedom. Like so many of his compatriots, Francis Scott Key, the wealthy American lawyer who wrote, ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ in the wake of the Battle of Fort McHenry on 14 September 1814, was a slaveholder who believed blacks to be ‘a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.”’ It further states that, “It goes without saying that Key did not have the enslaved black population of America in mind when he penned the words “land of the free.” It would be logical to assume, as well, that he might have harbored a special resentment toward African Americans who fought against the United States on behalf of the King.” Having a smidgen bit of knowledge is undeniably faultier than none at all . . . particularly when one is disinclined to learn.
Most of us crave to know the truth about what has been ignored in history, and unquestionably this verse has been tenaciously disregarded, for it tells the story of the magnitude of the evil institution of slavery, and how America was constructed on the backs of not just blacks, but Native Americans, poor whites (as even poor whites could not vote for many years because of the slave owners), Chinese, the Irish, and many others. Understanding the facts as I have expressed them is important, not just for blacks but for all Americans. I would recommend that one needs to read as much as possible before coming to any half-baked denunciations.
By the way, that Confederate statue in Travis Parks needs to be relocated!