What Is the History of the American Anthem?

The American Anthem, also known as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” is a patriotic song that has become a symbol of national pride and unity in the United States. It is played at important events like sports games, political rallies, and national holidays.

But how did this anthem come to be? Let’s take a dive into the history of the American Anthem.

The Origin of the Lyrics

The lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner” were written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 during the War of 1812. Key was a lawyer and amateur poet who witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore. He was inspired by the American flag still waving after the attack, which he saw as a sign of American resilience and victory.

Key wrote the lyrics as a poem called “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” which he set to the tune of an English song called “To Anacreon in Heaven.” The poem was published in newspapers and quickly became popular among Americans.

Adoption as National Anthem

Despite its popularity, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was not officially adopted as America’s national anthem until over a century later. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that it be played at military and other events. But it wasn’t until 1931 that Congress passed a law making it the official national anthem.

Controversy Surrounding Lyrics

Despite its status as a beloved national symbol, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has also been subject to controversy over its lyrics. Specifically, some have criticized its third verse for containing racist language that celebrates the killing of escaped slaves who fought for their freedom alongside British troops during the War of 1812.

In recent years, some activists have called for this verse to be removed or replaced with more inclusive language. Others argue that the song should be preserved in its original form as a historical artifact.

The Legacy of the American Anthem

Regardless of its controversial lyrics, “The Star-Spangled Banner” remains an important symbol of American patriotism. It is played at events both solemn and celebratory, from military funerals to Super Bowl halftime shows. Its legacy as a unifying force for Americans continues to this day.


In conclusion, the American Anthem has a rich history that reflects the country’s values and struggles. From Francis Scott Key’s inspiration during the War of 1812 to its official adoption as the national anthem in 1931, this song has become an important symbol of American unity and pride. While it has faced criticism over its lyrics, it remains a beloved part of American culture and tradition.