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tv   QA Author Mark Clague on the History and Cultural Impact of the...  CSPAN  July 4, 2022 6:22pm-7:24pm EDT

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♪ susan: mark clague, that was jimmy hendrix playing his version of the star-spangled banner at woodstock. tell me the story. mark: i am smiling as i hear that because to me it is still the most amazing performance of star-spangled banner in history. jimi hendrix, 1969, the youth of -- a moment one of the youth of america, or envisioning a different future for the nation. i teach a course in american music at the university of michigan for first-year students and i think partially to try to make myself look cool, i played jimi hendrix and the star-spangled banner because i figure if i am talking about american music, what could be more american than the star-spangled banner? their questions led me on a quest that has taken more than a decade to try to figure out where the song came from, what it has meant in different moments in american history.
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it has been an incredible journey for me but it started with hendrix at woodstock and this fusion of patriotism and protest reflecting the turmoil of a 1960's and one of iraq's greatest moments. -- rock's greatest moments. susan: you describe your book is a cultural biography. what does that mean? mark: i think of the star-spangled banner almost as a person that was living through some pivotal moments of american history and one of my beliefs about the song is that it is actually a living document. it is not a frozen icon, it is not something that is
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>> the role of the song in our society? >> most people think of hendrix because of this iconic moment in the woodstock film.
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having him play the song only once. but he started playing it only if year before woodstock all the way up through his death. which is almost exactly a year after woodstock. for me, i think hendrix was doing was trying to figure out who he was and his relationship -- by practicing the song on his guitar. he was singing it with the strings of the guitar in a way that became his own personal expression of what it be.
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-- it becomes the national anthem on july 4, 1861 inches the fourth of july at the beginning of the u.s. civil war when by law the number of stars on the flag, and i have the 1814 flag here in the back down, the number of stars is used nash is
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-- is supposed to be adjusted to match the number of states. so the federal government does not recognize the states that succeeded as having left the union so the number of stars on the flag stays the same. and the star-spangled banner at that time, becomes the symbol of union and the song the star-spangled banner became the rallying cry of the union forces. so, at that moment, the sacrifices of the lives of the soldiers fighting in the country to end slavery and preserve the union is what makes it sacred to us. so it was referred to as the national anthem as early as the 1830's, one hundred years before it officially became the anthem. so really congress and hoover who signed the bill came late to the party and recognize something that was already true in american cultural practice and in american law. susan: when it was written and the writer of the star-spangled banner makes it controversial.
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-- for some people today. little bit more about francis scott key is remembered for the song but he did more, you said in your book. tell me about him. mark: he was an amazing figure in history. he was a big question mark for me while growing up. i grew up in michigan, where i teach and was born in 1966. i was nine years old when the nation celebrated the bicentennial and i think i fell in love with the idea and notion of america and the star-spangled banner has held meaning for me. -- for me all these years. i knew the basics of the myth, francis scott key was a prisoner on the ship and he saw the flag after the battle of baltimore and instantaneously this lyric appeared in his mind. the truth is more interesting. that is what is fascinating about history, getting into the
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details that lie behind the mythology. one issue is who francisco scott key was -- who was francis scott key? i think of him as the founding son of the nation. he is that next generation. he was born 1779. right after the revolution, his father fought in the revolutionary war and his uncle a british loyalist. that is the beginning of the complications of francis scott key. the issue of the day was slavery and he was a slave owner and someone who is a lawyer in the district of columbia represented black americans suing for their freedom from slavery. one thing that is interesting in my research of him is the amount of work he did as a legal advocate for blacks suing for freedom, he successfully freed
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189 people during his legal career. that does not fit the good guy, bad guy story today. he was an antislavery slaveowner, which does not make any sense to us today. -- i think it shows how throughout history we have struggled with the notion of what freedom means and how those motions apply. like others in his era, like john jay, who was the first supreme court justice and fought to in slavery but also owned slaves himself. people in that era were on both sides of the issue, looking for a pragmatic solution. one of the solutions was the american colonization society which tried to get slaveowners to voluntarily receive their enslaved laborers. by law at that time in states
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like virginia it was required to remove people from the state if they were freed. so the colonization society offered to take people to africa, which was inherently racist because you could not take someone back to africa who was actually american, born in united states, a natural born person, but not recognized as a citizen at that time. so the colonization society had a idea slavery could be ended peacefully and no one would get hurt on the war would not be necessary and key was a major figure in the creation and fundraising for that society. susan: and responsible for the freedom of a couple hundred of black americans. what was his approach to the enslaved people in his life? mark: he followed family tradition and referring to enslaved people in his household, there were at least five slaves in his georgetown
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house as servants rather than slaves. i think it was a euphemism. i think he saw himself as benevolent and caring for people and saw those who were enslaved in his household as people. i do not think he saw them as equals, that would have been unusual, certainly for the era. one of the interesting things he did is he freed the slaves in his household during his lifetime. seven during his lifetime and the rest by his last will and testament. he would provide job training and skills training by apprenticing slaves in his household to a blacksmith shop in order to allow them to learn a trade and be financially independent. one of his claims was that he opposed abolition because he did not want to see slavery and so quickly that slaves freed were in poverty.
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so when he freed his own slaves, he always had training to allow them to contribute to society and make a living. that was opposed to the rhetoric he had with the society which -- with the american colonization society which said that freed african-americans had to be removed from the state. -- the united states. had to be taken away. susan: and he had a famous brother-in-law. mark: roger tawney, also a bit of an enigma. vilified as the author of the dred scott decision that took away constitutional rights of black americans, or made it clear they had none. this is in the run-up to the civil war. -- in 1854. roger tawney also freed his own slaves in the 1820's and supported the amistad decision which was a famous slave ship that john quincy adams represented the rights and
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resulted in the release of the captives of the ship. so, one of the things about history is that it is never as simple as it is. and even tawney, he probably deserves some reconsideration. susan: in the war of 1812, was francis scott key a soldier? -- a civilian or had he enlisted as a soldier? mark: he was a quartermaster in the militia defending georgetown and then in a battle one month before the attack on fort mchenry when british troops marched almost unopposed into washington dc and desecrated the federal buildings of the city, burning the capital and the president's home and the navy yard's and patent office, he was running messages back and forth between commanders. so he was considered an upper-class gentleman in
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the city of georgetown and have certain privileges and rights thereof. he was opposed to the war of 1812 but when british troops were threatening his town and family, he volunteered to fight in the war. but his total service was probably just a couple of weeks. not a major or important military figure and that is one reason why he was expendable and and he was able -- they were able to send him on this mission to rescue or help negotiate the release of dr. william banks who had been captured after the battle of washington and that is what brought keith to baltimore to witness the attack on fort mchenry. susan: how did he find himself on a ship watching the british bombardment of fort mchenry? mark: there is a map in my book -- one of the interesting in my book is i have this cool map -- one of the others from the rushes imposed helped me with
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this and it is incredible. it has a lot of detail. and it gives the 17 days leading up to the publishing of the first version of the star-spangled banner. he starts in washington dc and finds out from a family member that the doctor was captured and he is sent on a mission by president madison and definitely an insider in american politics although not a politician. he ends up going to baltimore and basically hires a boat to to take him and john skinner the , u.s. agent of prisoners to rendezvous with the british fleets and it is uncertain what the british fleet would do at that point. went aboard ship negotiating the release of the doctor, the british high command decides they will go after baltimore. and baltimore was a particular thorn in the side of the british, the third-largest city in the u.s. in 1814 and an
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important shipyard. the baltimore clippers were fast ships used to harass british commercial shipping so when the war of 1812 was declared, one thing was privateers, american captains and ships were given permission to seize the cargo of british merchant ships so this was economic warfare and the british fleet was in the chesapeake in the summer of 1814 really, to get revenge to harass the american coastline and government and attacking baltimore was a prime target because a lot of the ships that captured british goods came out of baltimore. so they wanted revenge. they wanted to get into -- get past fort mchenry into baltimore harbor and be able to attack the city with canons or defeat the ground forces and
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then burn it to the ground and take its wealth for retribution for the damage baltimore had caused. it was an intense battle and i think when key saw fort mchenry held in the bravery of the militia and the forces, i mean they were outgunned. british ships had the most advanced weapons ever constructed by that time. their bomb ships could shoot farther and had bigger munition. -- munitions than what they could respond to. they were basically sitting ducks but they had the courage to stay and hold the fort against all odds. the odds turns in their favor and francis scott key saw this as a divine miracle. as a saving of the country. the unity, bravery, heroism, and god is smiling on the country and guaranteeing the promise of a country going forward.
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that spark of hope inspires him to write the star-spangled banner. susan: so on board the ship he -- with a looking glass, he kept his eye on the flag. the size of the flag made it easier for him to follow. how large was it? mark: it was enormous. it is preserved in the smithsonian museum of american history. it is one of the largest flags created, certainly at the time. it was commissioned by a general -- the general armistead in command of the fort. he wanted a flag that was so large i think it was 50 feet, i cannot remember the dimensions. that he wanted it so large that the british could see it from a distance and they would see it as a challenge and a signal of resistance.
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the flag is a symbol and it is key who grabs onto that flag. it is a practical symbol for him. people do not know exactly where he is but he probably is moved during the battle. the british thought it was going to be a quick battle like in -- battle they would win and aim -- a matter of hours like they did in washington dc. so the amount of resistance was a surprise but the flag became a symbol of that and as long as the flat was there, key could see there was still hope that baltimore would be saved and his sister-in-law lived in baltimore and he had family and friends and for him this was a personal attack. so he was disillusioned with the british that he had long admired. he was a british descent. -- dissent himself. his own disillusionment is another thing that is clear in the lyrica of the song. susan: i want to tie up about the lyrics. he had three days to write the lyrics but you make the point as
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a lawyer he was a man of words and words were important to him. so, paying attention to the lyrics, there is an important part of the story, the first versus what we always hear. what is notable about it is that it ends with a question. can you talk about that first verse? mark: part of what makes it so powerful is the way it tells the story of the battle. he is witnessing aboard his own american ship. they are transferred back to the ship, he is under guard, effectively prisoner but he is on an american ship and he watches this bombardment overnight. it is horrific. and just bomb after bomb. hundreds of musicians had heard it before. fortunately, the bombs were not devastating. there were very few casualties exercised at the fort. it is sort of embedded in the land, so they are resistant to
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these attacks, but but he saw the rockets and bombs going by. the high notes are the moments of tension for him, knowing the risks the soldiers are facing. the flag becomes the symbol of what the results of the battle are. isn't it -- it is an interesting time to think back to 1814, there was not any electronic communication, no radio, no radar. all the things we think of with warfare today. this was a time with very little information. you just knew if the flag was they or not. so that was critical as a question for him, who is in control and if his nation has a future. so the first line does and with
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a? . today, when we sing this today, -- so the first line does in with a question mark. today, when we sing this today, we think of it representing the powerful nation we became. in 1814, we were not. the british walked into our capital and we were not able to repel them and they basically attacked cities that will. so he gives a vision of what he hopes the country will become. so for me, the question is the powerful notion of, will we live up to the example of the heroes of fort mchenry? when we sing it today it is interesting to think about that question, which is literal and symbolic. and for us today, will we have the courage to participate? for me, it is a call to citizenship especially in that first verse. the second verse is about the uncertainty.
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the first verse he is asked if the flag is still there. the second verse he is talking about the clouds in the midst of the next morning. the bombing has stopped. this creates ambiguity. if the bombing stopping could mean the british gave up or that they took over the fort and are no longer attacking their own forces that are in the four -- fort. so nightfall and the darkness creates uncertainty. the second verse is about that, on the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep. the flag is fluttering. he sees the flag on the pole through his spyglass but the wind has not picked it up, it is hanging down so he cannot tell which flag it is, the union jack or star-spangled banner. and then it catches the breeze and he sees the flag is still there. the third verse is about vilifying the enemy. it is the most controversial versus, it was left out of
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textbooks starting in the 1890's and church hymnals in 1894. it is not part of the official star-spangled banner but it is the first that contains the word slave. and it is very alienating today because of the negative connotation was slavery. the third vilifies the bad guys, the british enemy he is disillusioned by. the fourth verse is the triumph and hope. it is where he sees the vision of a land where free men will stand between their homes and desolation. he sees this as a heaven rescued land. of land in which god has trusted. trust in god. the line that is on our coin is the fourth verse. and that is the verse of triumph
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and hope and challenge to future generations. did you find? mark: it is one of the things i was troubled with, and what surprised me and went against my intuitions is probably the word slave meant different things in 1814 than it does now. i explored three possible interpretations of the word in 1814. the first definition is like we it today, as black when -- men, women, and children held captive as labor in the colonies in early america, the law of the land at the time. abolitionists and african-americans would have seen the incredible irony of a song celebrating freedom invoking the word slave. amazingly for most white americans at this time, particularly white male americans who were the ones who
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had power and authority, they would have interpreted it in a myopic way. which is that, the word slave is use a lot in american patriotic rhetoric going back to revolutionary period. it refers to the distinction between europe which was a land of kings in which citizens were subjects, not free, independent operators. so what was celebrated after the revolutionary war was liberty. freedom. the notion that american citizens, white men, could decide whether or not to fight in a war or not. in england with king george, who we revolted from in 1776, still king in 1812, king george orders his subjects into battle in
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britain. so the contrast in the third verse which is about the british enemy is making a distinction between the british bad guys who vessels and nash were vessels and subjects of king george and not fighting of their own free will and who were hirelings and professional soldiers fighting for money and to take the wealth from baltimore and ransom cities on the american coast. so they were hirelings, and they were slaves in that they fought at the king's behest rather than their own free will. american militia by contrast, the good guys, were volunteers and they were free to choose to fight or not. so i think that is what the word slave would have been read for by most mainstream white americans in 1814. the other thing i found interesting, the third
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interpretation is personally what i think motivated francis scott key himself is hireling and slave, that phrase is not plural. it is not talking about all of the british enemy, singular. -- enemy, but it is singular. hireling and slave. i think he was thinking specifically about major general robert ross, the leader of the british contingent who ordered the burning of washington and imprisonment of william baines so the fact that it switches distinctively in that phrase, he uses the singular to talk about the hiring and slave and he was trapped on board a ship for three days and did not know much about the battle but one thing reported back to washington,
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-- one of the things that skinner rooted back to washington dc that we found and one of his letters is that major general robert ross was killed by an american sniper and quickly dragged on shore and died en route. so the terror of flight and -- the language he uses about the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave applies specifically to major general robert ross and i think that is what he was probably thinking in elevated aristocratic language of the day. and a ghost to name the british enemy and to mock his death. i think he would have seen that as inappropriate so he refers to it symbolically. and more abstractly. susan: we are at the halfway
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point of our conversation with mark clague. -- and the inspiration of the star sting -- stars angled under one myth you dispel is that it was a poem later set to music. mark: it looks like a poem when you look at the lyrics. it has the rhyme scheme and all things we expect poetry to have. what was common in early american discourse was writing songs to reflect pivotal moments in american life. so, campaign songs, fourth of july songs, songs about controversies, war, party songs of the federalists and democratic republicans who were to -- the two major parties in his time. so songwriting was alive and well and the way political songwriting worked, you took on melody already well-known and wrote new words to fit it. -- to fit that melody.
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this was done with yankee doodle, which had short lines used to insult people. that tends to be the way that melody is use. the melody we know today as the star-spangled banner originates in london in 1773 as the anthem of a musicians club called the intercurrent onyx society. the antegrade onyx society. -- and it was brought to the u.s. by a group of london actors and as early as 1793, 20 years before the writing of the star-spangled banner, people in america started writing topical political lyrics to the song to this tune. and that is exactly what he did in 1814. the first hit lyric to the tune
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is called adams in liberty and was about president john adams and offered support to him during the war with france in 1798, a pivotal moment in american legal history. not necessarily a flattering one for the country, but an important one nonetheless. this song gave voice to support for john adams and it was used as a campaign song for thomas jefferson, the fourth of july, -- july songs, and it was used by francis scott key in 1805. nine years before writing the star-spangled banner, he wrote another song called when the warrior returns. it celebrated the heroism of a captain in the u.s. navy fighting in the barbary war in north africa. he was being paraded around the east coast and celebrated by various communities for his heroism and one of those places was at georgetown and key had just moved to the nation's capital and was looking for a
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-- he was looking for a way to introduce himself to future legal clients so he wrote a song for a dinner called when the warrior returns. from the battle for -- from the battle of far. -- battle afar. so we know that he knew the melody that was later used for the star-spangled banner because he had previously written other lyrics to the same tune. so when he is trapped aboard ship for three days from wednesday morning through friday night is he carefully constructs lyrics to tactically encourage unity and strong military and piety, these things he wants to see happen. it is kind of a protest lyric if you will, because it is talking about a world he sees rather than overworld he is living in.
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it is the world he hopes for. but he uses the previous melody. as a model for his lyrics. the phrase star-spangled, he used it first to talk about that flag. he coined the phrase. he talks about the star-spangled flag of our nation in 1805 in the earlier lyric so there are a lot of echoes in the star-spangled banner from the previous lyric. it is really part of a very vibrant traditional songwriting. it is the tweet and tiktok's of early america. the way people brought emotion into the service of political hopes and dreams. >> let's move on to the story of the banner in the 20th century it has become a ritual at , virtually every sporting event from little league's to national football. how did that happen?
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mark: it was not common in the early history of professional american sports. the first time i found it to be -- be able to document was in may of 1862 in a baseball game in brooklyn, new york. in the 19th century, if you wanted music at a sporting event, used to have a band. -- had to have live musicians and a band. we did not have recordings. we did not have public address systems that could amplify a recording. -- recording was in 1877 by thomas edison so it's not until later that we have electric systems that could amplify a recording for a crowd. so if you're going to have music for a 1920 band -- you had to have a live band.
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so you used it for opening day and special occasions in the world series. it was played at the first world series in 1903 and it was not until 1917 that it was performed before every game of the world series. and i think, what really happens, is that in world war i, american professional sports is facing an existential crisis. professional sports are deemed a nonessential occupation. if you were a fighting aged male, you were required to be working in a wartime occupation. so you had to either be in the military or working in a business supporting the military like manufacturing planes. athletes in great physical shape were prime candidates for the draft. -- being brought into the u.s. military. so many american baseball players were drafted and teams were decimated. they have pitching staffs of six or eight and they were down to
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one or two players for the world series that year. so, the professional sports leagues started to align themselves with patriotism for their own economic interest, to show that they were part of the war effort on the home front. because world war i ended pretty quickly, the u.s. got involved in 1916 and in 1918 it was over. or maybe 1917. i will have to -- i should look that up. but, very quickly, the u.s. came in at the end of the war and then it was over. -- over a year after that. so professional baseball, the major sport at the time, was saved because of armistice. when world war ii rolled around, sports were not going to be behind the eight ball.
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they would not be declared nonessential so sports teams got out in front of this. i really thought that pearl harbor was the day the star-spangled banner exploded in american life but it actually happened before. before pearl harbor, it was being played at every professional sports game in the u.s. every baseball game started with it. it is the feeling of threat and uncertainty that brings people together and rally them around the national anthem and then the song makes people feel like they can withstand and will be able to survive this international crisis of world war ii. from world war ii on we have had the star-spangled banner and one thing i found is a photograph of
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president truman in 1945 meeting with the commissioner of the national football league, which was not the powerhouse it is today, it was at the beginning of the growth of football in america but he gives the president a golden ticket to any game and promises at that point the star-spangled banner will be played at every game and as much a part of a football game as the kickoff. that's the first time we can document a promise from a sports league to play it at every game. susan: we going to run out of -- we are going to play, and using this as an example as we are going to run out of time, but this is whitney houston at the super bowl in 1991 come we are going to play it. >> oh say can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hailed at the
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twilight's last gleaming? susan: for you, the whitney houston performance is definitive. why? why is that? mark: it is considered by many people to be the best performance of the national anthem ever. i think it is the passion and devotion she communicates through her voice. it is interesting about the music is that it is pretty nontraditional. this might be a little too much musicians, but there is an extra beat added to every measure in her performance so it feels more like a slow march or a church hymn, than it does like that star-spangled banner, which is -- isn't a rolling triple meter, like a waltz. but then when she uses it it is
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oh say one for, and it gives her voice time to expand and blossom but also allows her to bring in a gospel style, taking the at them to church, if you will. when people hear that performance which was at the beginning of the gulf war, which was during a time of crisis in american identity, she captures that moment for people by making the sacred message of devotion to the nation. so when people hear that , version, they do not think about the ornamentation or the changes to the music, what they -- changes to the music or the harmony. what they think is that this is true this is real, she believes , what she is saying, she is embodying the ideals of the lyric. i think it is a powerful statement from a black woman singing to a national and international audience in the super bowl. susan: the positive aspect is
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that the banner builds community. you write that the negative is it has become a straitjacket and any deviation causes controversy. i wanted to show a couple examples of that, starting in 2006, let us listen to a clip of that version. ♪ [speaking different language] it immediately became controversial but your research suggests people have been translating the star-spangled banner for a long time. mark: that version was released during a time of intense debate
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about immigration policy and we are still struggling and have -- haven't solved the problem today but it was meant to show there are many loyal americans in the u.s. who spoke spanish. -- spanish as their primary language. what people do not realize at the time is that that version, that transition, was commissioned by the u.s. government during world war i as a spanish translation to build support for the u.s. effort, not only to help americanize spanish -- and recognize spanish speakers at home but also to reach out to latin america and places that might get involved in the war. so we have used, as a nation, translation as a tool to welcome a broader set of americans and to allow them to express patriotism in their native tongue. not in a way that disables or contradicts the english version, of the star-spangled banner, but in ways that broadens it. i found over 100 translations in more than 40 languages,
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beginning in 1851 with a version from texas. new braunfels, texas. the anthem was in german. it was used as a recruiting tool in the civil war to bring german speakers into that army and 20% of the union army was of german descent and spoke german during the civil war. susan: in 1990, roseanne barr at a san diego padres game, another transformative performance. in a negative way. let's listen. >> [screaming anthem] [boos]
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susan: what happened to roseanne barr's career after that? -- after that performance. mark: i remember that firestorm in 1990. she was vilified. it was interpreted as her intentionally insulting the nation. she, of course was a huge media figure at this time and had the number one tv show in the nation -- roseanne had all sorts of projects but she represented this iconoclastic character. i tried to avoid writing about this for many years because i find it personally grating that i ended up developing sympathy were roseanne barr because i think she tried to sing it well. she started off too high. so then she's tried to pull it off by going into character and -- character by trying to make the best out of a bad situation
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and people vilified her. i think people vilified her rather than seeing it as a mistake. susan: what did she learn? mark: i think she learned she had the freedom to try again. in a more recent television show she sang it for a little league game and she sung it well. i think she learned that the fear and the bad memory that she as an american had the freedom to try again and correct her mistake. so, it was an inspiring story that she came back and did it in a way she was proud of. -- proud of in the end. susan: talk to me about the history of the banner and the civil rights movement. mark: it's interesting. i was able to trace lots of connections between the anthem and the civil rights movement. i think, today we are polarized
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and we see the anthem and the question of slavery, where does -- where does slavery fit in american history? there is tension between patriotism and progressivism. what my book tries to show it they were allied in many parts of american history and the the notion of using the anthem as a protest song is part of its history. one place i was able to find that is in the civil rights movement. there were protests in new york that i document where groups protesting on equal hiring practices in the construction industry, they are laid down in front of the equipment, and stopped a construction site and all these men, women, and children are singing the star-spangled banner in order to express a civil rights protest. and in another performance in selma after the violence on the
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edmund pettus bridge the next , day there was a prayer vigil and those assembled sang the star-spangled banner. -- banner to start the day. so the message is we are also americans. i think every time it is performed there is a claim of belonging. whether in translation or in a different style like whitney houston with gospel elements, for example, that says, i am here, i am american, i am part of this story, i am part of this patriotic message. and there is a message of devotion that patriotism has. a hope that america could live up to its ideals. so for me, understanding the role of the star-spangled banner alongside this little light of mine and we shall overcome and all the civil rights anthems we think of, right before martin luther king gave the i have a dream speech, the star-spangled
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banner was sung. this was really -- it was a claim to being an american. to wanting america to live up to its ideals and not calling for revolution for destroying the country, but calling for reform and recognition. susan: a well-known protest about the star-spangled banner that is colin kaepernick. -- in 2016. >> overnight, san francisco 49ers refusing to stand during the national anthem, again. this time, he took a knee behind the service being honored. -- the service members being honored that night. as the crowds stand, you can see him on the sideline. >> he is receiving boos.
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>> the crowd booing every time he took a stand. susan: how did you come to view his protest? mark: incredibly grateful to him for drawing attention to the issue of race and the history of the star-spangled banner. i initially wanted to write my book for the bicentennial of the anthem which would have been 2014. and i think i would have written a very different book because when he took a knee to point out that the country was not living up to its ideals, it's not a protest of the song, so much that he is using the ritual of the song as an opportunity to draw attention to another issue. when he took me, -- when he took a knee, it brought the issue to the fore and the black lives matter movement challenged me as a historian to dig deeper into the use of the anthem and protests.
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one of the amazing things i came across, this was a bit of luck in searching through early african-american newspapers was evidence of the first time an african-american refused to stand for the star-spangled banner. december of 1860, right before the civil war. lincoln had just been elected. the question was, would slavery be ended in america or would the nation once again compromise and accommodate slavery to have unity in the north and south? so, cap her neck is part of a long tradition -- so, he is part of a long tradition of using the anthem for protest. for me, the reference to freedom and bravery in the lyrics are an opportunity. it forges the anthem as kind of an alarm bell, if you will, when
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the anthem makes us uncomfortable in the celebration of unity is when we see disunity, and that is what he does. when he kneels, he is indicating something else is going on. and that makes us question things. and the anthem's ability to create dissidents --dissonence and make us aware of those who may be are not being served equally by those ideals is the power of the song that is valuable. i see it kind of as a barometer of freedom, which was ironic in 1844 when the first abolitionist lyric was written to the same tune, calling to the end of slavery and used the reference for freedom to point out that many in the united states were not free. but the history of the anthem and protests for me is what makes it valuable. susan: i am going to close with a very traditional version of it in the inauguration. ♪
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>> say does this are -- star-spangled banner -- o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? [applause] susan: mark clague there are calls by people who do not like the origin of the star-spangled banner in our society to have it replaced with something else. what is your response when you hear those cries for replacement mark: i think there is probably a need to at least make it explicit what the star-spangled banner is. the law in 1931 that named it
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the anthem of the u.s. is ambiguous. it just says it is the national anthem. it does not tell you what the words are exactly. so the fact that the third verse references slave, it was not removed intentionally. it was in all government publications until that time. it probably needs to be made explicit today and i think that would be an affirmative message of inclusion. replacing the anthem would be incredibly controversial and i think i would find it to be sad in the sense that it would deny this history that to me is valuable. it is valuable to see american history through the star-spangled banner and having a song that celebrates the ideal of freedom and equality and the bravery of the nation serves as -- of the nation to live up to
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those standards serves as a bellwether and helps guide us into the future so i think there is value in the song. i think it is possible we could think of anthem moments in sports as referring to a repertory, maybe we should be playing america the beautiful or god bless america, other songs could be used in those rituals. -- ritualistic moment. it would broaden the notion of what american patriotism is. i would welcome that change. but in terms of changing the song, it would be up to american people, not the legislature. so, i think that maybe what it is -- what made the anthem what it is was the civil war. it was not practice, the way it was used. he was not a bill in congress and the president's signature. so with we have a new song it would mean there has to be another moment in american history that captures the imagination of the nation, a
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heroic moment that is celebrated in song and that song would have to catch fire with americans in -- with the american people in a way that speaks to everyone. when that happens, a tide will wave over the country that will take us into a new realm. it might change the song, or new lyrics or new performance. only time will tell. but i think, it really is read the people who get to decide what our anthem is by what music we use in moments of civic celebration. susan: the book is called "o say can you hear?: a cultural biography of the star-spangled banner," and i am very appreciative of mark clague. -- of the hour with mark clague. the author of the book. which -- in the website that has teaching materials about the banner and work. thank you for your time. mark: thank you, susan. great to talk to you. ♪ >> all q&a programs are
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that impact you. coming up tuesday morning, we talk about the future of health care and the affordable health -- care act with brian bray's of former trump administration economic and health policy advisor. and then keith executive director of environmental entrepreneurs talks about his new book client phonics washington wall street and an economic at to save our planet. watch washington journal live at 7:00 eastern tuesday morning. on c-span, or c-span now, our free mobile app. join our conversation with phone calls, face the, texts, and tweets. >> listen to c-span radio with her free mobile app. c-span now with -- get complete access to what is happening in washington. wherever you are. -- white house events, the courts, campaigns, and more. less, analysis of the world of
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politics with our informative podcasts. he spent now is available at the apple store in will play. download it for free today. c-span now your front row seat to washington, anytime, anywhere. >> the supreme court held a memorial for the late justice john paul stevens who passed away in july 2019. supreme court justices, justice stephen family, and former law clerks gather to honor him. you can watch the memorial tonight at 8:00 eastern. here's a preview with one of the law clerks david baron. the -- judged quarter appeals in the first circuit. >> it is a great honor to be with you all to remember the great -- a great man. but in saying that, i cannot help but think it seems a misleading way to describe justice stevens not because it is inaccurate, because it does not capture what made him great. that description inevitably
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calls to mind an overpowering person. a larger-than-life person. but justice street -- stevens greatness his gift, his example, his superpower was to show the gentleness has a power of all its own and so too does humility. the word that most comes to my mind when i think of him and it has since i first met with him with a interview for clerkship is timelessness. times sling -- time seemed slower in his presence as is he had access to a longer timescale than most people do. a sense of the depth of time and how long it runs back and how far it will run into the future and how important it is in making decisions of consequence. as justice stevens did for all of his professional life to be aware of that time skill. >> several other low clerks and late justice and -- also pay tribute to john paul stevens. watch the memorial tonight at 8:00 eastern here on c-span. >>


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