The 3rd Verse of the Star Spangled Banner Is Actually Really Upsetting

We all know the words to the Star Spangled Banner, also referred to as the “National Anthem.”

Traditionally, we sing the song at sporting events or other notable occasions. But how many of us actually pay attention to the lyrics when we’re signing it? There’s quite a bit of history surrounding those words.

For some background, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written by a man named Francis Scott Key after he saw an American flag at the Battle of Fort McHenry. He wrote it after the War of 1812 had ended and based it on a poem called “The Defence of Fort McHenry.”

During this time, the Star Spangled Banner was known as one of the nation’s most patriotic songs. It was a time when people commonly expressed their feelings for the flag, and the values it represented, through music.

While the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner have a positive connotation, Francis Scott Key had actually written an original third verse that wasn’t so uplifting. Or at least, it wouldn’t be considered that way in the present time.

A video that has recently resurfaced in light of the Black Lives Matter movement has brought clarity to this third verse. They confirmed with the Library of Congress, who had access to the preliminary sheet music from Key himself, that this third verse existed, and that it actually had some pretty upsetting implications.

This line that has since been removed glorifies the killing of slaves.

The verse is as follows: “Their blood has washed 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.”

It turns out that Francis Scott Key was a slaveholder who believed blacks were “a distinct and inferior race of people.”

It’s easy to make judgment calls about the underlying meaning of it all, but the Library of Congress explains that in the war, British forces had actually recruited escaped slaves to fight against Americans. And it’s possible that Key saw them as just as much of a threat as the British.

Additionally, while Key was in fact a slaveholder during the war, later in his life he became a lawyer that helped slaves fight for their freedoms.

So yes, perhaps hundreds of years ago, the song had a more dire meaning, but that’s what makes the song so iconic and important today, and why the video below has been getting more attention lately.

To hear more about the song’s meaning, and how today it has come to celebrate the sacrifice of American military heroes, regardless of color, check out the video below.

Did you know this third verse to the Star Spangled Banner existed?