Here’s What Frederick Douglass Said About the National Anthem

The NFL kneelers have created quite a stir with their protests. Fans are turning off the game and not attending the games and the NFL is feeling it.

Colin Kaepernick who before this controversy was just a fading quarterback, said he started all this to fight America’s racism and oppression.

From The Daily Signal:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told the NFL media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

But that, of course, isn’t how most people see the flag or the anthem.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812; it was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1931 and has been a staple at sports events for more than a century. The song is filled with martial and patriotic references, finishing with a stanza that makes an ode to America as the “land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

To the majority of Americans, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a moving tribute to what the country represents: freedom, duty, bravery, and commitment to the men and women serving in the armed forces.

But there are a few who don’t see it that way.

Some even attacked the anthem as ‘racist’ because Key was a slave owner and ‘militaristic’ because of the military references. They referenced lost stanzas that no one sings anymore in the modern version of the anthem that mention slavery, claiming it celebrates slavery.

But there’s one famous man who the kneelers might be surprised would not agree with any of this, famed abolitionist, writer, publisher and escaped slave, Frederick Douglass.

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He more than understood the imperfections of America and was not shy about calling them out. But he also believed in the principles upon which America was founded.

Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who played a critical role in the abolitionist movement in the mid-19th century, had been a frequent critic of American policy and the existence of the “peculiar institution.” However, he believed that the dearly held principles of the Declaration of Independence, and its unequivocal statement that all men are “created equal,” would eventually lead to slavery’s dissolution.

Douglass pulled no punches in criticizing slavery as a massive contradiction in American life, but he understood the evils of the system would be corrected by embracing the country’s origins rather than rejecting them. He encouraged black Americans to sign up and fight for the Union under the American flag during the Civil War, played a crucial role in recruitment efforts, and convinced many former slaves to serve in the military and embrace the United States as the vessel—not the thwarter—of freedom.

He not only believed in the anthem, he played it regularly.

Douglass was known to frequently play “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his violin for his grandchildren in the years after the war. He said in an 1871 speech at Arlington National Cemetery that “if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army.”

Players today would do well to look to Douglass’ feeling on the subject because he suffered far more oppression than anyone today could sincerely argue and certainly more than multi-millionaire football players.

And by the way, Douglass was a proud Republican.

[Note: This post was written by Nick Arama.]