Statue honoring writer of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ damaged (VIDEOS)

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The man who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Francis Scott Key, was honored with a statue in Baltimore 106-years-ago. Early on Wednesday, that century-old monument was defaced with red paint, spelling out the words, “Racist Anthem.”

Officials report receiving a call around 6:30 a.m., stating that the monument had been vandalized. Police say the monument was tagged with black lettering and red paint.

Along with the vandalism to the statue, the ground near it had also been painted with the third stanza of Key’s anthem: “No refuge could save, Hireling or slave, From terror of flight, Or gloom of grave.”

The full text of the third stanza, not widely heard or used, reads:

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.

The reference to slavery may not have been a celebration of slavery, however, as even the New York Times reported in September 2016, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested the anthem over the lyrics, among other reasons.

The Times wrote:

The social context of the song comes from the age of slavery, but the song itself isn’t about slavery, and it doesn’t treat whites differently from blacks. The reference to slaves is about the use, and in some sense the manipulation, of black Americans to fight for the British, with the promise of freedom. The American forces included African-Americans as well as whites. The term “freemen,” whose heroism is celebrated in the fourth stanza, would have encompassed both.

That fourth stanza referenced reads:

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!

The Times article goes on to explain that the third stanza isn’t widely used, not because of its reference to slavery, but because people didn’t want to offend the British.

“It was their blood that ‘has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution,’ as the third verse puts it. But when we became allies in World War I, we really started reversing course,” the Times explains.

Even liberal-leaning Snopes.com explains that while some historians believe that the third stanza is racist, others disagree. They write:

“In fairness, it has also been argued that Key may have intended the phrase as a reference to the British Navy’s practice of impressment (kidnapping sailors and forcing them to fight in defense of the crown), or as a semi-metaphorical slap at the British invading force as a whole (which included a large number of mercenaries), though the latter line of thinking suggests an even stronger alternative theory — namely, that the word “hirelings” refers literally to mercenaries, and “slaves” refers literally to slaves. It doesn’t appear that Francis Scott Key ever specified what he did mean by the phrase, nor does its context point to a single, definitive interpretation.

In Baltimore, another incident of vandalism targeted a statue of Christopher Columbus, and the city also removed four monuments linked to the Confederacy last month.

Key’s monument is made mostly of marble, with a gold base and a gold statue of the anthem written on top. The statue was dedicated in 1911 to honor Key, an attorney who was being held captive aboard a British ship off Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 when he wrote America’s national anthem.

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