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8 National Anthem Backstories

8 National Anthem Backstories



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1. The Star-Spangled Banner

The story behind America’s anthem dates back to the War of 1812’s Battle of Baltimore. In September 1814, American attorney Francis Scott Key sailed out to the British fleet in the Chesapeake Bay to negotiate the release of an imprisoned friend. Detained overnight, he watched with bated breath as the British moved on Baltimore and rained over 1,800 rockets and bombs on nearby Fort McHenry. A defeat seemed imminent, but when dawn finally broke, Key was overjoyed to see the American flag still waving over the fort—a clear sign that it had not fallen to the British.

Key scribbled down the poem that became “The Star-Spangled Banner” that day, and by September 20, his patriotic words had found their way into a Baltimore newspaper. The song—ironically set to the melody of a British tune—later became popular in the armed forces, but it wasn’t until 1931 that it was formally adopted as the American national anthem.

2. The Mexican National Anthem

Francisco Gonzalez Bocanegra won a countrywide contest to write Mexico’s “Himno Nacional” in 1853, yet if it were up to him, he never would have participated. A skilled poet, Bocanegra was more concerned with composing beautiful verse than patriotic song lyrics, and he initially resisted President Santa Anna’s call for would-be national anthems. According to legend, his young fiancée was so sure he could win that she locked him in a bedroom and ordered him to pen an entry to the contest in exchange for his freedom. Just four hours later, Bocanegra emerged with a ten-verse poem celebrating Mexico’s struggles and revolutionary heritage. The reluctant effort was later chosen as the country’s new national song by unanimous decision.

3. God Save the Queen (Great Britain)

Britain’s anthem is one of the world’s most famous—and often copied—national songs, yet its origins remain cloaked in mystery. The lyrics and melody first appeared in magazines and music anthologies around 1745, when they were often performed to show support for King George II during the final Jacobite uprising, but the song’s true author is unknown. Possible candidates include organist and musician John Bull, baroque composer Henry Purcell and the dramatist Henry Carey.

“God Save the Queen”—altered to “God Save the King” whenever a man sits on the throne—later became a popular motif among composers such as Beethoven, Handel and Brahms, and by the early 19th century it was viewed as the unofficial national anthem of the monarchy. The song also inspired numerous imitators. Lichtenstein’s national anthem lifted the melody note for note, as did the American patriotic song “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

4. The Bayamo Anthem (Cuba)

Cuba’s Bayamo Anthem arose during the Ten Years’ War, one of the island nation’s early attempts to win independence from Spain. Lawyer, musician and rebel leader Pedro “Perucho” Figueredo originally composed the melody in 1867, but the song didn’t get words until October 1868, when revolutionary forces claimed the city of Bayamo. As his fellow freedom fighters rejoiced, Perucho, still on horseback, took a scrap of paper from his pocket and scribbled down two verses of lyrics celebrating Cuba’s revolutionary spirit. The song became a popular battle hymn for the Cuban forces, but Perucho was later captured and executed by firing squad in 1870. Just before the shots were fired, he is said to have shouted one of the most famous lines from the anthem: “Who dies for his country lives!”

5. The Song of the Germans

The long and checkered history of the “Deutschlandlied,” or “Song of the Germans,” began in 1841, when the poet Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben penned its lyrics as a rallying cry for supporters of a unified Germany. Set to a melody by famed composer Joseph Haydn, the song later became one of the German Empire’s most cherished national hymns. It was particularly popular among the military, and during World War I, German troops often belted it out from the trenches to identify their position and avoid friendly fire artillery deaths. Shortly after the war, the Weimar Republic selected the tune as the official national anthem.In the 1930s, the Nazis turned the “Deutschlandlied” into a symbol of fascism by combining its first verse—which included the famous line “Deutschland, Über Alles” (“Germany, Above All”)—with the official Nazi party song. Allied forces briefly banned the song after the war, but it was later restored as the national anthem—minus the now-tainted first verse—after the reunification of Germany in 1990.

6. National Anthem of South Africa

Prior to the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa had dueling national anthems. The official state song was “Die Stem,” known in English as “The Call of South Africa,” but the country also had an unofficial national hymn in “Nkosi Sikolel’ iAfrika,” or “God Bless Africa.” In a land sharply divided along racial lines, “Die Stem” was seen as the preferred national hymn of the white population, while “God Bless Africa” was more closely tied to blacks, who employed it as a song of protest against apartheid.

The rival tunes stood as a musical symbol of South Africa’s troubled history until 1994, when newly elected President Nelson Mandela announced that “Die Stem” and “God Bless Africa” would share honors as the national anthem. Finally, in 1997, the two anthems were blended into a single song that incorporated lyrics from each. In an unusual twist, the new anthem also included lyrics in five of South Africa’s most commonly spoken languages: Xosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English.

7. Kimigayo (Japan)

The “Kimigayo” officially became Japan’s national anthem in 1999, but its lyrics date all the way back to a piece of 10th century verse written in honor of the Japanese Emperor. The poem was used in folk songs as early as the Middle Ages, but it wasn’t established as a patriotic tune until 1869, when a British music teacher working in Yokohama first set it to music for use as a national hymn. The Kimigayo was then updated to its current form in the 1880s, and eventually became Japan’s unofficial national song after the country’s Education Ministry decreed that it should be sung in schools. Its plaintive melody was transformed into a symbol of Japanese militarism during World War II, but the song endured through the post-war era and into the 1950s, when it was reintroduced as part of an effort to restore Japanese patriotism. The Kimigayo is often noted for its extreme brevity—at a breezy five lines, it’s one of the world’s shortest national anthems.

8. La Marseillaise (France)


One of the world’s most recognizable national anthems, the famed “Marseillaise” dates back to the height of the French Revolution. The song was composed in April 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, a French soldier and musician then stationed in Strasbourg. De Lisle wrote the march in support of a war with Austria—its original title was “War Song of the Army of the Rhine”—but its spirited melody proved more popular among revolutionaries gunning for the head of King Louis XVI. The tune became known as “La Marseillaise” after republican volunteers from Marseilles sang it during their long march into Paris, and it was later adopted as the new French republic’s national anthem in 1795. Ironically, despite having accidentally penned its battle hymn, the royalist De Lisle would only narrowly escaped the guillotine under the revolutionary government.

The Marseillaise was later banned by Napoleon and several other French monarchs and wasn’t officially restored as the national anthem until 1879. Since then, the song has often come under fire for its violent lyrics, which make vivid reference to throat cuttings, vanquished enemies, and fields running red with blood.


In a 2007 interview, Diamond stated the inspiration for his song was John F. Kennedy's daughter, Caroline, who was eleven years old at the time it was released. [3] [4] Diamond sang the song to her at her 50th birthday celebration in 2007. [5] On December 21, 2011, in an interview on CBS's The Early Show, Diamond said that a magazine cover photo of Caroline Kennedy as a young child on a horse [6] with her parents created an image in his mind, and the rest of the song came together about five years after seeing the picture. [7] However, in 2014 Diamond said the song was about his then-wife Marcia, but he needed a three-syllable name to fit the melody. [7] The song has proven to be enduringly popular and, as of November 2014, has sold over two million digital downloads in the United States. [8]

The song reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week ending August 16, 1969, [9] and was certified gold by the RIAA on August 18, 1969, for sales of one million singles. [10] "Sweet Caroline" was also the first of fifty-eight entries on the US Easy Listening chart, peaking at #3. [11]

In the autumn of 1969, Diamond performed "Sweet Caroline" on several television shows. It later reached No. 8 on the UK singles chart in March 1971.

Weekly charts Edit

Chart (1969) Peak
position
Australia (KMR) 3
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM) [12] 2
Canada Top Singles (RPM) [13] 3
South Africa (Springbok) [14] 7
US Billboard Hot 100 [15] 4
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard) [16] 3
US Cash Box Top 100 [17] 3
Chart (1971) Peak
position
Ireland (IRMA) [18] 9
Netherlands (Single Top 100) [19] 16
UK Singles (OCC) [20] 8
Germany (Official German Charts) [21] 37

Year-end charts Edit

Chart (1969) Rank
Canada Top Singles (RPM) [22] 37
US Billboard Hot 100 [23] 22
US Cash Box [24] 26

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

There are three distinct mixes of this song. In the original mono 45 mix, the orchestra and glockenspiel are more prominent than in the stereo version on the Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show LP. The third version was a remix found only on the initial CD release of Diamond's His 12 Greatest Hits. [28] This version has the orchestra mixed down and has the background vocals mixed up. It has a longer fade as well. A live version of the song is on his Hot August Night LP.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Diamond changed some of the lyrics to "Hands . washing hands . don't touch me . I won't touch you." [29]

United States Edit

The National Football League's Carolina Panthers have played the song at all home games in Charlotte since 1996. In 2020, the Panthers played the song to an empty Bank of America Stadium in honor of all front-line workers in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The song has been played at Fenway Park, home of Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox, since at least 1997, [30] and in the middle of the eighth inning at every game since 2002. [31] On opening night of the 2010 season at Fenway Park, the song was performed live by Diamond himself. [32]

The Iowa State Cyclones have used "Sweet Caroline" as a football victory song since 2006. [33]

Since 2008, the University of Pittsburgh has used "Sweet Caroline" as an unofficial school sing-along song by inserting "Let's Go Pitt!" over the instrumental three-beat "Woah oh oh" [34] interval after the title refrain and replacing the repeated phrase "So good" with "Go Pitt!" [35] [36] [37] The song started as a rallying anthem played between the third and fourth quarters of Pittsburgh Panthers football games, [38] [39] but has been adopted for use during other university sports contests, alumni events, and student ceremonies, including graduation commencement ceremonies, [40] [41] and references to the song have appeared on various school merchandise. [42]

"Sweet Caroline" is sometimes part of the regular rotation of songs during sports events at other universities, and although noted as not as being a tradition specific to or uniquely associated with Pennsylvania State University, [43] out of a speculated concern with the song's lyrics in the wake of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, the university removed the song from the rotation of music played at football games prior to the 2012 season. [44] [45] However, performances resumed to loud renditions at Penn State football games in September 2013. [43]

Several days after the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, Neil Diamond led the crowd at Fenway Park in a rendition of the song. [46] Sales of the song surged nearly 600 percent in the week after the bombings, to 19,000 copies, up from 2,800 the week before. [47] Diamond said that he would donate his royalties from those sales to the One Fund Boston charity to help the people affected by the bombings. [48]

The song is also used at the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters home games, where fans replace the "bum, bum, bum" with "London sucks!" in reference to the rival London Knights. [49]

Australia Edit

The Sydney Swans of the Australian Football League regularly play the song during their home games.

United Kingdom Edit

Castleford Tigers of the Rugby League Super League play the song after a home game win.

Mixed Martial Arts Edit

UFC middleweight fighter Darren Till has adopted the song as his entrance music beginning at UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Till. [50]

    – vocals, acoustic guitar – string, horn and vocal arrangements – other instrumentation
      – drums – bass guitar – keyboards – electric guitar

    Austrian singer DJ Ötzi released a version of the song in 2009. His version reached number 19 on the German Singles Chart and number 18 on the Austrian charts. [51]

    In 2019, "Sweet Caroline" was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". [52]


    8 National Anthem Backstories - HISTORY

    [The following presentation was given in Sunday School, on September 5, 2010.]

    Before we have our Pledge of Allegiance, I’d like to remind you about something that happened 196 years ago (nearly 200 years ago). It’s the true story about our national anthem.

    It was the War of 1812, our country was once again at war with the British.

    In 1814 the British had won a major victory at the very center of our nation’s capital.

    In August of 1814, British troops marched into Washington, D.C., and set the Capitol building and White House ablaze, as well as some other buildings. The President of the United States, President Madison, had to flee the city.

    The enemy then decided to attack the city of Baltimore, which at the time was the third largest city in America.

    Baltimore was protected by a fort, Fort McHenry (see above). If the British ships were to attack Baltimore they would have to destroy this fort.

    The fort had ramparts, mounds of earth that were piled up as a fortification, for protection. The commander of the Fort was George Armistead. A year earlier Armistead asked a woman, Mary Pickersgill, to sew two flags for Fort McHenry.

    Mary was 37 years old and she was a widow. The smaller flag was 17 X 25-foot storm flag for use in bad weather, but the flag that became the Star-Spangled Banner was a huge flag which was 30 feet tall and 42 feet long. This giant flag had broad stripes and bright stars.

    The width of our sanctuary from wall to wall is 46 feet this flag was almost that long! The ceiling of our sanctuary is 25 feet tall from the floor. That flag was 30 feet tall! This flag was so big it could not even be hung in our auditorium! And spangled on that giant flag were 15 stars! Today we have 50 stars spangled on our American banner, but back in 1813 they didn’t have that many states. Commander Armistead knew that the British would probably try to invade Baltimore and he wanted a flag so large that the British couldn’t miss it.

    One year after the flag was made the invasion of Baltimore took place. Many, many British warships made their way through Chesapeake Bay headed for Baltimore and for Fort McHenry. It was mid-September in the year 1814.

    At the same time there was a 35 year old lawyer by the name of Francis Scott Key. He was concerned about his friend, a medical doctor, who had been captured by the British. Francis Scott Key (the lawyer) and John Skinner (the negotiator) were able to get permission to board a British warship. They were able to successfully negotiate the release of their friend. The British promised to free the prisoner, but the Americans were not allowed to go back to shore until after the battle. Instead they were put in a small American ship that was under British control, and from that location, out on the water, they were able to witness the bombardment of the Fort.

    On September 13, 1814, a whole fleet of British warships began firing bombs and rockets on Fort McHenry, this fort which protected Baltimore’s harbor. The bombardment continued all day and all night while the nation awaited news of Baltimore’s fate. The bombs were bursting in air everywhere. It was a perilous fight.

    The British guns had a range of 2 miles but the American guns had a range of only a mile and a half. Thus the Americans in the fort were like sitting ducks. They had to endure the oncoming bombs but their bombs and cannon balls could not reach the enemy ships. As believers in Christ we are reminded that the Lord is our fort, our refuge, our place of safety, and no matter what kind of bombs or fiery darts the enemy hurls are us, God can keep us safe (Psalm 46).

    As twilight gave it’s last gleams of light, Francis Scott Key could still proudly see the American Flag. At this point the Fort had been bombarded for more than 12 hours. The battle continued into the dark. It was like a massive fireworks display as the sky would light up with each explosion. As the rockets gave forth their red glare and as the bombs burst in the air, the flag could be seen, giving proof to Francis Scott Key and his friends that the America Flag was still there. They caught glimpses of it through the night as it was illuminated by the explosives. At one point during the night a bomb crashed right into the area of the fort where the gun powder was stored. What an explosion that would have caused! But for some reason that bomb did not go off. It was a dud.

    Late in the early morning hours, when it was still dark, the bombs stopped and there was an eerie silence that lasted for some time. Mr. Key was wondering if the flag was still there. Even when the dawn’s early light broke forth, it was hard to see due to the haze and smoke and fog of that morning. They didn’t know what they would see. Would the American flag be gone? Would a British flag be flying in its place?

    Suddenly at about 7:00 o’clock, a break in the mist cleared the view for a moment, and they saw the thrilling sight of the American flag still flying over the walls of the fort. Mr. Key was so excited he pulled out an unfinished letter from his pocket and started writing verses to a poem. He wrote most of the words of that song in a few minutes. Later that day the British released the Americans and Key returned to Baltimore where he finished the poem. Just three months later the British signed a peace treaty and the war ended.

    The Star-Spangled Banner was officially approved as the national anthem by Congress in March, 1931. It was recognized as the national anthem by the Army and Navy even before it was officially adopted by Congress.

    ______________________________________________________

    Francis Scott Key was a man of faith in Jesus Christ. He believed that America was a heaven rescued land and that we should "praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must when our cause it is just, and this be our motto, IN GOD IS OUR TRUST." A hundred and forty-two years after he wrote these lines "IN GOD WE TRUST" officially became our nation’s motto (in 1956). Francis Scott Key was involved in the American Sunday School Union, and was instrumental in planting thousands of Sunday Schools in settlements throughout the Midwest. Later in his life he became the Vice President of the American Bible Society because he believed that we would be the land of the free and the home of the brave only if we as a nation would follow Biblical principles, and he knew that the Word of God needed to get into the hands and into the hearts of the American people.

    [Note: According to David Barton, the flag that flew over the fort for most of the night was the smaller flag (the storm flag), but at dawn the Americans raised the larger flag. I wasn’t able to confirm this from other sources. --George Zeller]


    La Marseillaise

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    La Marseillaise, French national anthem, composed in one night during the French Revolution (April 24, 1792) by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, a captain of the engineers and amateur musician.

    After France declared war on Austria on April 20, 1792, P.F. Dietrich, the mayor of Strasbourg (where Rouget de Lisle was then quartered), expressed the need for a marching song for the French troops. “La Marseillaise” was Rouget de Lisle’s response to this call. Originally entitled “Chant de guerre de l’armée du Rhin” (“War Song of the Army of the Rhine”), the anthem came to be called “La Marseillaise” because of its popularity with volunteer army units from Marseille. The spirited and majestic song made an intense impression whenever it was sung at Revolutionary public occasions. The Convention accepted it as the French national anthem in a decree passed on July 14, 1795. “La Marseillaise” was banned by Napoleon during the empire and by Louis XVIII on the Second Restoration (1815) because of its Revolutionary associations. Authorized after the July Revolution of 1830, it was again banned by Napoleon III and not reinstated until 1879.

    The original text of “La Marseillaise” had six verses, and a seventh and last verse (not written by Rouget de Lisle) was later added. Only the first and sixth verses of the anthem are customarily used at public occasions. The text of these two verses follows, along with an English translation:

    Allons, enfants de la patrie,

    Le jour de gloire est arrivé.

    Contre nous, de la tyrannie,

    L’étendard sanglant est levé l’étendard

    sanglant est levé.

    Entendez-vous, dans les campagnes

    Mugir ces féroces soldats?

    Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras

    Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes.

    Aux armes, citoyens!

    Formez vos bataillons,

    Marchons, marchons!

    Qu’un sang impur

    Abreuve nos sillons.

    Amour sacré de la Patrie,

    Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs.

    Liberté, liberté chérie,

    Combats avec tes défenseurs combats

    avec tes défenseurs.

    Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire

    Accoure à tes mâles accents

    Que tes ennemis expirants

    Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire!

    Aux armes, citoyens! etc.

    (Let us go, children of the fatherland,

    Our day of glory has arrived.

    Against us the bloody flag of tyranny

    is raised the bloody

    flag is raised.

    Do you hear in the countryside

    The roar of those savage soldiers?

    They come right into our arms

    To cut the throats of our sons, our comrades.

    To arms, citizens!

    Form your battalions,

    Let us march, let us march!

    That their impure blood

    Should water our fields.

    Sacred love of the fatherland,

    Guide and support our vengeful arms.

    Liberty, beloved liberty,

    Fight with your defenders fight

    with your defenders.

    Under our flags, so that victory

    Will rush to your manly strains

    That your dying enemies

    Should see your triumph and glory!

    To arms, citizens! etc.)


    The Origins of the United States' National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner"

    How exactly did “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the American national anthem, come to be?

    On the night of September 13, 1814, when British troops were shelling Fort McHenry in the Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812, 35-year-old lawyer Francis Scott Key was detained on a ship by the British. Key was convinced the British would triumph, but when he woke up, the smoke had cleared in “the dawn’s early light” and he saw the U.S. flag raised over the fort in victory.

    Overcome with emotion at this unexpected victory, Key wrote a poem inspired by the flag. His brother-in-law had the poem distributed under the name “Defence of Fort McHencry” and set to the tune of a popular English song at the time (“The Anacreontic Song”), and the poem soon became popularly circulated. In November of 1814, a music store in Baltimore printed the patriotic song with sheet music for the first time under the more lyrical title, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

    Although it was a prominent patriotic song for a long time, it was only recognized in 1889 for official use by the United States Navy, and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order designating it as “the national anthem of the United States” for all military ceremonies. Because the song was so popular, it had dozens of different versions, so President Wilson commissioned an official edition from the U.S. Bureau of Education, who enlisted the help of musicians. The standard version was first performed at Carnegie Hall in December 1917.

    It was not until March 3, 1931 that a measure passed Congress and was signed into law by President Hoover formally designated “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem of the United States, a measure which failed 40 times earlier.


    Kicking off the 111th NAACP Convention Sung by Kierra Sheard

    Lift Every Voice and Sing Lyrics

    Lift every voice and sing,

    'Til earth and heaven ring,

    Ring with the harmonies of Liberty

    Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

    Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

    Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us

    Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

    Let us march on 'til victory is won.

    Bitter the chastening rod,

    Felt in the days when hope unborn had died

    Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

    We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,

    We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,

    Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

    Thou who has brought us thus far on the way

    Thou who has by Thy might

    Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

    Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,

    our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee

    Shadowed beneath Thy hand,

    It spoke to the history of the journey of African-Americans and for many Africans in the diaspora [who] struggled through to get to a place of hope.


    The music

    Of course, the meaningful poetry is only half of what makes this hymn so iconic. John Rosamond Johnson’s musical setting is rich with meaning, both cultural and personal.

    • The original composition is in A flat major, a popular, expressive key that’s seen a lot in spirituals and gospel music. Notable Black composers like Harry T. Burleigh and Thomas A. Dorsey set some of their most famous works in this key.
    • The melody incorporates what is known as “word painting,” where the music in some way matches what’s being sung. The phrase “Lift every voice and sing,” for instance, is always sung on an ascending line, as is “Let all creation rise” in the first verse.
    • This “word painting” continues through the second section of the song. As the lyrics tell of the dark past and the blood of the slaughtered, the tune takes a mournful minor turn.
    • The original accompaniment and many popular multi-voice settings feature tight, layered harmonies, a hallmark of African American choral traditions. The chromaticism — literally color — of these harmonies, is echoed in blues, jazz and gospel traditions.
    • Finally, Johnson’s other theatrical influences are on display. Portions of the second section of the song are written in a recitative style, a popular device used in operas. (Remember, Johnson composed several operettas.)

    Recitative is when the music and words reflect how a phrase would naturally be spoken. For instance, when voices sing “[We have come] over a way that with tears has been watered,” the tempo of the music flows quickly and evenly, the same way the phrase would be said.


    The True Story Of OUR National Anthem, ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing’

    From left to right: D.C. Del. Walter Fauntroy, singer Melba Moore, Dr. Roland Scott of the National Association for Sickle Cell Disease and Dr. Dorothy Height of the National Council of Negro Woman celebrate the 90th anniversary of the song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” in 1990. | Source: Bettmann / Getty

    UPDATED: 8:40 a.m. ET, Feb. 12, 2021:

    W hile the “Star Spangled Banner,” America’s national anthem, has been sung for nearly two centuries, many African Americans throughout the years have sung a different tune.

    “Lift Every Every Voice And Sing,” a poem written by literary pioneer James Weldon Johnson, is often dubbed “The Black National Anthem.” The poem was originally performed in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, 1900, and was later set to music in 1905 by Johnson’s brother John Rosamond.

    For many African Americans, singing the song was their way of showing patriotism and hope for the future, considering the plight of racism they greatly faced. Deep symbolism was found in its lyrics, allowing African-Americans to subtly speak against racial bigotry. It is heavily performed at predominately African-American venues, especially in Black churches across the nation.

    In 1990, singer Melba Moore released a modern rendition of the song, which she recorded along with others including recording artists Anita Baker, Stephanie Mills, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Brown, Stevie Wonder, Jeffrey Osborne, Howard Hewett BeBe & CeCe and The Clark Sisters.

    Today the song is an integral piece of Black patriotism.

    It’s also gained increasing relevance in recent months amid a purported racial reckoning as the U.S. takes slow steps to address inequalities facing Black people in all walks of life.

    As a candidate, President Joe Biden named his plan for Black America the “Lift Every Voice” plan addresses some of the stereotypical topics associated with Black people, like gun violence and criminal justice. But it also sets aside funding for issues stemming from the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 has had on Black people, including the shuttering of Black-owned businesses.

    Conversely, Biden ally and South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn even went so far as to suggest that “Lift Every Voice and Sing” should become America’s national hymn in an effort to heal racial wounds. But writer Anoa Changa suggested such a move could ultimately betray the true and original intentions of the song.

    “Clyburn’s suggestion isn’t about what is better for Black people it’s about what will make whiteness comfortable,” Changa wrote in response to Clyburn’s proposal last month. “Leaders should be using this moment to unequivocally stand firm against the rise of fascism and white nationalist violence coupled with agenda-setting to help uplift communities across the country.”

    Below is a video of John Legend performing his rendition of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” during the virtual commencement exercises hosted by Morehouse School of Medicine in May 2020.


    Hidden History: National anthem has colorful backstory

    During the War of 1812, the Maryland physician, William Beanes, was accused by the British of spying for the American military. Whether or not he did remains uncertain, but Dr. Beanes was taken captive by the British and held aboard the HMS Tonnant just off the Maryland coast.

    On hearing the news of the physician's fate, President James Madison authorized John Skinner, a federal agent, to negotiate the release of Beanes. So on Sept. 3, 1814, Skinner and a 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, who happened to be a close friend of the doctor's, boarded the HMS Minden in Baltimore and set sail for the Tonnant.

    Four days later, the two Americans were aboard the Tonnant dining with the British admiral, Alexander Cochrane, and the ship's senior officers and attempting to negotiate the terms of the accused American spy's release.

    In an effort to free their comrade, the Americans shared with Admiral Cochrane letters from British prisoners who had been treated by Dr. Beanes, all of them attesting to the quality care and genuine empathy they received from the elderly physician. The letters worked and the release was granted. Beanes was placed in the custody of Skinner and his lawyer-poet friend.

    However, while aboard the British warship, the two American negotiators overheard their guests' planning a surprise naval attack on Baltimore. Accordingly, neither they nor the doctor were permitted to go free until after the battle, lest they warn their countrymen of the pending attack.

    The three Americans were transferred to another warship, the HMS Surprise, where they were held captive during the naval attack. All day and into the evening, the Americans witnessed a ferocious bombardment of Fort McHenry and the American coastal defenses.

    That night, the young American attorney and amateur poet watched the British attack with anxiety. From his vantage point he witnessed the British "bombs bursting in air" on the American defenses. The outcome of the battle hung in balance until morning, but he observed with pride "by the dawn's early light that out flag was still there." The final surge against Fort Covington, Baltimore's last line of defense, also failed.

    The attorney, Frances Scott Key, and the battle he memorialized were destined to be etched in American memory. The very flag that Key saw raised over the American fort had 15 stars and 15 stripes. It survived the battle and, restored, now stands in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

    Key and the other two Americans safely made their way back to Baltimore. The day after the battle, Key put his thoughts into verse in a poem he called "Defence of Fort McHenry." Ironically, Key's lyrics were later put to the tune of a popular British drinking song called "The Anacreontic Song" (a.k.a. "To Anacreon in Heaven"), to which many tavern brawls were fought and drunken affairs consummated!

    The song would later be renamed the "Star-Spangled Banner" and, by an act of Congress in 1931, it was made our National Anthem. Sometimes, the most unlikely of events end up shaping history, a history that is always infinitely more fascinating than anything imagined by Hollywood scriptwriters!


    BackStory’s Year In Review

    As 2016 comes to a close, BackStory takes a look at the stories that resonated most with our audience. Here are the 10 most popular blog stories from this year:

      Jan. 12, 2016 – Lottery Fever by Diana Williams
      The lead up to the largest lottery jackpot to date – the $1.6B Powerball jackpot hit on Jan. 13 and had only one ticket match all numbers, sold to John and Lisa Robinson of Munford, Tennessee – had Americans going crazy with dreams of hitting it big. BackStory Digital Editor & Strategist Diana Williams wrote about past lotteries and how Americans didn’t always look at them favorably.

    A ticket for the Jefferson Lottery, which was scheduled for April of 1826, but never held. Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, of the same year. © Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, made by William Grattan, 1826

    A New York Times headline that reads “Murray Hall Fooled Many Shrewd Men.”

    Aaron Burr’s Strategim at the Weeks trial. Source: Library of Congress

    Frederick Douglass, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

    Norma Wallace during one of her annual portrait sittings. Courtesy of Chris Wiltz.

    Students at Olentangy Berkshire Middle School in Galena, Ohio dressed up as characters from Hamilton! The Musical. From the left: Esha Sharma as Angelica Schuyler Church, Olivia Davis as Aaron Burr, Ethan Paulo as King George III, Lauren Timmons as Alexander Hamilton, Emma Aquilina as Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, and in the front is Amelia Mannino as Marquis de Lafayette (Photo by Teacher Justin Emrich)

    “The star spangled banner,” published by Currier & Ives between 1856 and 1907. Source: Library of Congress

    James Baldwin portrait (left) by Carl Van Vechten, Sept. 13, 1955. Source: Library of Congress. William F. Buckley by Los Angeles Daily News, May 1, 1954. Source: Wikimedia Commons

    On the electoral college campus by L.M. Glackens for Puck, June 12, 1907. Illustration shows Uncle Sam and William Jennings Bryan wearing caps and gowns during the graduation ceremonies at the “Electoral College” Jennings is holding a book “Reveries of a Candidate”.

    Bonus stories from our photo blog:

      Aug. 8, 2016 – Coming To America
      See what it was like to arrive in America via Ellis Island between 1902 and 1913.

    Group photograph captioned ‘Hungarian Gypsies all of whom were deported’ in The New York Times, Sunday Feb. 12, 1905. Source: New York Public Library Digital Collection

    UVA Medical School, School of Medicine, Anatomy Lab, Circa 1890, Cadaver Society. Source: UVA Special Collections Library


    Lift Every Voice and Sing

    Lift every voice and sing, ’til earth and heaven ring,

    Ring with the harmonies of liberty

    Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,

    Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

    Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

    Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us

    Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

    Let us march on ’til victory is won.

    Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,

    Felt in the days when hope unborn had died

    Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet

    Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

    We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,

    We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,

    Out from the gloomy past, ’til now we stand at last

    Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

    God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,

    Thou who has brought us thus far on the way

    Thou who has by Thy might, Led us into the light,

    Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

    Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,

    Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee

    Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,

    True to our God, true to our native land.

    #GrioBlackFacts: The Story of the "Black National Anthem

    When did you first learn the words to the "Black National Anthem"? We took to the streets of New York City to see who knew the 100+ year old hymn, and its meaning to our culture.

    Posted by TheGrio on Friday, October 6, 2017


    Watch the video: 8-bit history of the USSR (August 2022).

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