The new mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, had strong words against the national anthem during his inaugural speech to the city. He did allow the song to be played — but on one condition: All of the verses, not just the first, be played.
The Pioneer Press reported Mayor Melvin Carter's III reasoning for playing the entire song was so the rarely heard third verse would be heard.
The verse goes as follows:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Carter said the anthem, with the third verse specifically, is an “ode to slavery.”
“We cannot ignore the painful reminder, written into our anthem’s third verse, of just how deeply injustice is rooted in the American tradition…Our national freedom song is an ode to slavery," he said.
“This is the American paradox,“ Carter continued. ”Passed from generation to generation, dating back to the noble group of rich white straight male landowners who embedded into our founding principles a yearning for a set of God-given rights they sought to secure for only themselves."
With the national anthem protests before NFL games making headlines in 2016, attention was brought to the third verse. According to supporters of the protests — which was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to raise awareness of racial injustice — it was further proof of the deep racism within the country.
Some historians, however, have said broader context shows that's not exactly the case.
Professor Mark Clague, who teaches music history, American culture, African- and Afro-American history, explained the verse is author Francis Scott Key's way of skewering the enemies of the United States, both black and white.
He also points out the song praises the defenders of Fort McHenry, which included free black men and former slaves.
Watch the video below.