'Star-Spangled Banner' should be replaced with 'Imagine': American author

The current US National Anthem contains lyrics written by a lawyer who owned slaves.

"The Star Spangled Banner," which flew over Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, seen at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington.  (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRIS HELGREN)
"The Star Spangled Banner," which flew over Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, seen at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington.
"The Star Spangled Banner" should be replaced as the American national anthem with John Lennon's "Imagine," an American activist and journalist has said.
Kevin Powell, author of 'When We Free the World,' made the suggestion during an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, in which he claimed that the Star Spangled Banner is problematic because the lyrics were written by a slave owner.
“‘The Star-Spangled Banner' was written by Francis Scott Key, who was literally born into a wealthy, slave-holding family in Maryland,” Powell said. “He was a very well-to-do lawyer in Washington, D.C., and eventually became very close to President Andrew Jackson, who was the Donald Trump of his time, which means that there was a lot of hate and violence and division. At that time, there were attacks on Native Americans and Black folks — both free Black folks and folks who were slaves — and Francis Scott Key was very much a part of that.
Powell continued: "He was also the brother-in-law of someone who became a Supreme Court justice, Roger Taney, who also had a very hardcore policy around slavery. And so, all of that is problematic. And the fact that Key, when he was a lawyer, also prosecuted abolitionists, both white and Black folks who wanted slavery to end, says that this is someone who really did not believe in freedom for all people. And yet, we celebrate him with this national anthem, every time we sing it.”
The song's lyrics were written by Key following his witnessing the bombardment of American forces by the British at Fort McHenry, during the Battle of Baltimore on the night of September 13-14, 1814. The poem centers on an American flag that survived the bombardment unscathed. The words were set to composer John Stafford Smith's "To Anacreon in Heaven," and became a popular anthem among Americans, although it was not adopted as the national anthem until over a century later, first by an Executive Orer from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, and then by Congressional Resolution in 1931, signed by President Herbert Hoover.
“Francis Scott Key, he was a big-time guy in terms of the American colonization of society,” historian Daniel E. Walker told Yahoo. “This was not just a person who just lived in the time period. This is a person who helped define the time period.”
Walker agreed with Powell that the anthem ought to be dropped. “The 53-year-old in me says, we can't change things that have existed forever," he said. "But then there are these young people who say that America needs to live up to its real creed. And so, I do side with the people who say that we should rethink this as the national anthem, because this is about the deep-seated legacy of slavery and white supremacy in America, where we do things over and over and over again that are a slap in the face of people of color and women. We do it first because we knew what we were doing, and we wanted to be sexist and racist. And now we do it under the guise of ‘legacy.’”
Recounting his experience teaching young white students who are horrified by the past, Walker said, "they’re saying that they want to live in a world where those vestiges are gone because they have no reason to be here. And that we need to be about redemption in a society — that if we have wronged someone, we can go back and do our best to fix that. And this one is pretty easy to fix.”
A lawyer by trade, Key grew up on a plantation in Maryland and bought his first slave aged 21 or 22, at the turn of the 19th Century. In 1920 he owned six slaves, but the following decade he freed seven slaves, one of whom continued to work as his farm's foreman for a wage, supervising several slaves.
During his legal career Key represented a number of slaves who were seeking their freedom, as well as landowners who wanted their runaway slaves returned. He was one of the executors of John Randolph of Roanoke's will, fighting to enforce the will for the next decade as well as providing the freed slaves with land upon which they could support themselves, but he was also involved in efforts to prosecute the abolitionist movement.
Key was a founding member of the American Colonisation Society, which sought to return slaves to Africa under the belief that black and white Americans could not live peacefully side by side.
“If you really love your country, if you really are patriotic, then you criticize and challenge your country to be better and do better, not just reinforce things that actually may not be true for all people in the country. … That is what democracy is,” Powell opined. “If there's a tradition that hurts any part of the society — sexist, patriarchal, misogynistic — then it’s time to just throw it away.”
When asked what song should replace the Star Spangled Banner, Powell suggested John Lennon's 'Imagine,' - “the most beautiful, unifying, all-people, all-backgrounds-together kind of song you could have.”
Walker suggested that whatever the new song is, Yahoo reported, it should be vetted to ensure it doesn't have a terrible past.