Is The National Anthem Racist? The Truth Behind Francis Scott Key and Our National Anthem, With Shelli Manuel:  The WallBuilders team talks with Dr. Shelli Manuel today about Francis Scott Key and our national anthem.  They discuss the misrepresentations of both Francis Scott Key and the time surrounding the writing of our national anthem. We learn that, instead of being racist, they are really quite the opposite.

Air Date: 11/21/2017

Guests:  Shelli Manuel, David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast.  However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith And The Culture


Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture.  This is WallBuilders Live! Where we”€™re talking about today”€™s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture, all of it from a Biblical, historical, and Constitutional perspective.

We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders. Also, Tim Barton, national speaker, pastor, and president of WallBuilders. And my name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas state legislator, national speaker, and author.

Later in the program, actually in just a few minutes, we”€™re going to have Shelli Manuel with us.  And, guys, talk about a hot topic.  I mean, this is a very hot topic in the culture right now. A lot of discussion over even the national anthem and whether or not it is a racist national anthem now people are even claiming.

Here’s something that for years has brought us together as a nation.  Red, white, yellow, black, or brown, we came together and said, “€œHey, that flag represents the sacrifices, this song represents us as a nation.”€ But now people are saying it’s actually a racist national anthem.


Which is amazing that it was written in 1814 and now here we are some two hundred and three years later.  Suddenly we discover that the third verse is pro-slavery.  Yet, all the abolitionists before that never knew that, and no other generation before.  How did it become pro-slavery in the last three or four years when it was not for 200?

Well, it’s because people don’t know history. We’ve had a lot of questions sent in to us about this, about the national anthem.

Someone who has really researched this hands-on, on the ground, gone through this, knows the story very well is Dr. Shelli Manual. Brown University, her husband was a professor at Yale.  And by the way, her husband had great history books.  Really, really, good stuff.

Is The National Anthem Racist?

But I was talking with Shelli recently and she got into some details on Francis Scott Key that I had never even heard before.  And I’ve spent a fair bit of time on Key and thought she would be a great guest to cover this issue of the third stanza of the National Anthem.

Is it racist or not?  Was Francis Scott Key racist?  What’s the story?  And she’s going to have a good answer for us.


We”€™re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back on WallBuilders Live.

Moment From American History

This is Tim Barton from WallBuilders with another moment from American history. Alexis De Tocqueville, a political official from France, traveled to the United States in 1831 and pined his observations in the now famous book, “€œDemocracy In America.”€

Being from France, what he found in America was completely unexpected to him.

He reported, “€œUpon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention. And the longer I stayed there the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this. In France, I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America, I found that they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.”€

Did Tocqueville recognized that it was Biblical Christianity and the morals it produced that made America great? For more information about Alexis Tocqueville and the positive influence of Christianity in early America go to

Resurrect America Radio


Welcome back.  Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live. Dr. Shelli Manuel is with us.  Resurrect America Radio is where you can find her.  That”€™s is the website.  We”€™ll have a link today at to make it easy for you. Dr. Manuel, thanks for coming on.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

Well, thank you for having me. I appreciate all that you’re doing.


Oh, well thank you.  Right right back at you. You also have a website and you’ve been a real champion for getting people to be more patriotic, and understand their history, and know where we came from.  And very specifically, this area of the National Anthem is a hotly debated topic right now.

David said, “€œMan, we got to get Shelli on to talk about this stuff.”€ So, we appreciate your time.

River Church, Tampa, Fl

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

Well, thank you very much. I’m in Florida right now at the School of Government at Rodney Howard-Browne ministry down here at the River Church.  I was just with a group of students that were very excited about this issue and it was a mixed racial group as well.  So people who really understand the crux of the matter can pull together in unity instead of this thing splitting us all up.


Oh, that’s great.  That’s great. I love seeing that. And I think once you get truth out there, and you get the real information and the accurate information in front of people, it is something to rally around and bring us together – not divide us. Now a lot of people are trying to use it to divide us.

Let’s just jump right into the heart of the matter. Give us a little background on the national anthem itself, Francis Scott Key and how this came about.

History of the Anthem and Francis Scott Key

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

Yes.  Now, you know we have written a resolution that was successfully passed by the U.S. Senate and maybe we can talk about that in a few minutes.


Sure, sure, yeah.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

Then I’ll tell you some history of this as well.

Well, first of all, everything started the day that Francis Scott Key wrote this national anthem with the burning of Washington, D.C. The Sewell house, which was related to one of the families that was a key instrumental voice in the beginning of our nation during the Revolution, to the Pre-Revolutionary War days -the Sewell family.

Pastor Samuel Sewell, as a matter of fact, * quite an issue concerning the first constitution of Boston, which is in Boston State House of Massachusetts.  Stood right up against the powers of Europe, and against the atrocities and the tyranny of the Church of England.  Trying to wipe out all of the rights that the early settlers had had.

So the Sewell House was a very key place for the English king to direct his forces to attack in Washington, D.C. Of course, Washington is several hundred miles below Boston, but family had migrated there as you know the continent had been settled.

So there was the burning of the Sewell house. You can still go to the small museum on Constitution Avenue to this very day.  And second Street and see all of this.

As it was burning, Dolly Madison was running out of the White House and she asked one of the people on her staff to take a butcher knife and cut the picture – the only known canvas of George Washington’s face – out of its frame.  Roll it up, and take it with her.  She was so sure that there would be nothing left of Washington.

Meanwhile, 30 some miles north in the Baltimore area, Francis Scott Key was trying to broker the freedom of his dear friend Dr. Bean. And Francis Scott Key was from Annapolis, Maryland, which of course now is the capital of Maryland.

He was trying to broker the freedom because the British had arrested Dr. Bean.  He had been found to be treating the wounded from both the British side and the American forces in their conflict in 1812.

Naval Academy


And Annapolis, of course, home of the Naval Academy.  So our story has Francis Scott Key on a naval vessel.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

Exactly, yeah exactly. And Baltimore was the premier Harbor at the time.  It wasn’t New York or any other.  Baltimore was the premier harbor for any kind of shipping to go on. And it had originally been in Philadelphia, but this had become the real hotspot.

So if they could burn Baltimore to the ground and terrorize her citizens and burn Washington at the same time, it was pretty much a slam dunk.  You know, done deal that they would have conquered the American people or at least sufficiently demoralized them to the point of surrender.

Flames of Washington

And pretty soon the flames could be seen of Washington burning on the horizon in Baltimore.  And at that point, the British admiral decided to also arrest Francis Scott Key. Not only the man that he was there trying to broker the freedom of as a lawyer.  But now to arrest him as well.

And he chided him throughout the entire battle with Fort McHenry in Baltimore”€™s Harbor that when the sun would come up this night long battle that it would be the British flag that would be flying – not the American flag. Now what I”€™m about to say is debated by several groups of historians.  But I’ve done research on it myself and I believe that he did say this. He replied to the British admiral that this would never happen because the men, women, and children inside of Fort McHenry would crawl on their knees to their God to be sure the standard of their freedom, the flag, would remain flying and that instead he would find a pile of bodies around that flagpole the next day whether the flag was still on it or not.

Now some of the historians at Fort McHenry during the bicentennial were questioning this and saying, “€œWell, what women and children here?”€ But then as research shows, there were women and there were children who came into the fort that night because families were there represented by the officers who were present there who wanted their children inside the fort to be what they felt better protected than in the outlying areas of where they would have lived and come into the court every day. So I believe Frances Scott literally said that.  Francis Scott Key literally said that.

Does The Flag Still Wave?


So this discussion with this admiral. I mean, that’s really what sparked his desire.  Does that flag still wave? I mean, seeing it he would know whether that Admiral was right and we had been defeated there or not.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

Exactly. Yes exactly. And of course, he was getting a premier view of the entire thing. And hearing all their plots and plans as well. So as the battle raged. Fort McHenry prevailed and when he wrote his third verse about the hireling and the slave.


And this is, of course, the part that is what a lot of people are bringing up now and saying that he was pro-slavery.  That this was his way of saying to those blacks that had gone to fight for the British in return for their freedom, “€œWe beat you.”€

And that’s the big question.  Was he talking about them?  Or was he talking about something else?

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

He was talking about something else.  And that was pure, that is pure ignorance.  We have a generation right now who cannot write or read cursive handwriting except for some fun exercises they do once in a blue moon in elementary school.

I found this out when I was doing a big event at the Boston State House.  Mitt Romney had granted me favor there.  I was the state director for Christians United For Israel and held an event in the Boston Statehouse. And when I was doing this event.  

I left one afternoon to go film in Washington, D.C. and came back over the weekend.  All of my college interns greeted me with the news they hadn”€™t done their work.  I said, “€œWhat is the matter with you?”€ And one of them finally spoke up and said, “€œWe can’t read your notes.”€

And I looked at the notes that I had given to each one of their stations.  I said, “€œWell, I’ve always been told I have beautiful handwriting. I hope that you can read it.”€ And they said, “€œWe can’t read cursive handwriting at all.”€



Dr. Shelli Manuel:

College graduates in 2007. So where are we 10 years later in 2017?


Not better, I would guess.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

Right, so in this great ignorance.  We have a generation now who can no longer read the Founding Fathers documents.  All they will read is what some revisionist of history is telling them in their schools and this is one of the incidences.

Ralph Lauren

Now there is a display at the Smithsonian that Ralph Lauren paid for.  He put this up during the bicentennial.  I went to the finger food fellowship of it and the reception, and the original words penned by Francis Scott Key are now on display with the original flag that flew that night at Fort McHenry.

What he said was in the third verse. This is how it reads, “€œWhere is the band who so violently swore that the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion a home in a country should leave us no more.”€

Of course, he was listening to that all night. “€œTheir blood has washed out their foul footsteps pollution no refuge could save the hireling and slave.”€

Well, of course, we were saved.  He’s not talking about the Americans.  We were the ones who were saved.

So who is be talking about?  Them. “€œNo refuge could save the hireling or slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the great and the star-spangled banner in triumph tears wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”€

He’s talking about the hirelings and the slaves on board. Of all the British battalion of ships that were in the harbor.  For they were helping themselves to enslaving people like Dr. Bean and anyone they so chose.  So that is who he’s writing about.

Francis Scott Key Was An Abolitionist

And then furthermore, he was known to be a tremendous abolitionist.  He had a very dear friendship with a young man who was a slave in his own home property because he grew up like all the people at that time, unfortunately with slaves.

And who started the British slave trade? The British did. And my great grandfather, unfortunately, sadly, Sir John Hawkins was the one with which the hand of slavery began.  But he didn’t actually do it.  His nephew Francis did it.  Sir Francis Drake did it.

And the Queen of England was engaged in the battle with the Pope.  This was the terrible war between the Protestants and Catholics.  And a Portuguese ship had attacked his ship one night.  When they fired back in, one of the most dangerous jobs of all was to send men on the sinking ship to poulet the booty for the Queen.

And when they opened the cargo hold, the baby hold but a ghastly sight that no man had ever seen before in their ranks.  That was black men, women, and children dying or drowned, amputating their own limbs to get out of their chains.

Sold Into Slavery By Their Own People

So they very quickly rescued what they could.  Brought them on board the ship and only to find out they had been captured and sold into slavery by their own people – the Kaspar tribe out of Africa. And they directed him to take the ships back there, wanting to be taken back.

Meanwhile, he sent an emissary to the Queen – a very slow trip of it in those days.  His nephew who was on board. Drake got the cunning idea to make good use of this and sell these people into slavery, but when they were taken back to Africa, and Sir John Hawken opened up the gangplank to let them down, they were calling, scratching, and biting – any way they could to avoid going down on the very shoreline they”€™d asked him to take the ship to.

From whatever interpreter had emerged amongst them, suddenly he saw men with wild machetes and Arab headdress coming across the shoreline hacking to death those that he had just pushed down the gangplank. So he welcomed them back up.  They came running as suddenly as they gone.

He suddenly realized all they wanted him to do was turn those mighty cannon on their enemies.  Very sadly it went awry and they ended up with the British slave trade. So the British is who is being referred to here.  

And Francis Scott Key had made a good friendship with a black man that was on the plantation where he grew up.  Then later he became the attorney general in Washington and was the only Caucasian man to ride in a funeral procession of over seventy-two carriages and horses of the very first black man to die serving in Congress before the Civil War. So there was a free black man serving with Congress before the Civil War and Francis Scott Key was his dear friend as a mighty strong abolitionist.


Wow. You don’t hear that story on college campuses.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

No, you do not.


Not at all.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

And the little girl, I’ve written a book about her.  We’re in the process of publishing it. Maybe David would like to have this for the youth and we can talk about the book later when it comes out.

Grace Wisher

It’s called Grace Wisher Fingers That Sing is the subtitle. It’s going to be in the Crimson Cross series that my husband, David Manuel, and Peter Marshall, both of them bless the Lord are in heaven.  But we started this series together.  This will be the fifth book in the series.  It’s all about Grace Wisher, a young lady who had been born on a slave plantation in Virginia who came to freedom and desired to be an indentured servant at the Mary Pickersgill house.  And she sewed the stars onto that flag of old glory at Fort McHenry that Francis Scott Key was writing about that night.


Oh, wow.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:



No kidding. Okay, and now when is that coming out?  Is that going to be this year or next year?

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

It will be sometime at the beginning of next year.  We will send you the first copies and we can establish a time to talk about it then.



Dr. Shelli Manuel:

I think this is so important because I was working on this book and working with the Star-Spangled Banner Commission, the government commission, during the bicentennial on our resolution.  And the U.S. Senate gave us unanimous vote on that. And I was studying the story of Grace Wisher at that time right when the Freddie Gray riots broke out in Baltimore.

So the very children that were at the crux of the matter in that racial uprising should have known about a heroine in Grace Wisher, who was a black girl herself.  People who become indentured servants are the best American citizens afterward.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

My forefathers came over on the second Mayflower ship and they were indentured servants, as were the ancestors of many who have valiantly served the United States government, and been great heroes in our government.  Because these are people who have integrity.  They work off whatever the indentured servanthood is, pay their way through whatever it is.  And they become great citizens.  That”€™s who Grace Wisher is.  She’s another hero out of the  1812 Star-Spangled Banner night.


Wow. I love it, I love it. That”€™s powerful, that’s powerful. So for people right now that are just getting snippets about the national anthem.  And frankly, there are tons of well-meaning people that now are joining this fray of not wanting to stand for the national anthem and whatnot because they’re being told that it’s a racist theme.  That Francis Scott Key wrote those lines against the slaves and was pro-slavery.  All of those things. So those people need to know the truth about what he was really saying.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

Yes, they do. And here’s another fact about it. Francis Scott Key, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and others tried to stand against the Kings of England and the powers that be of their day. Now, of course, Francis Scott Key lived after the day of Washington and Jefferson.  He was fighting the war of 1812. Of course, Jefferson, I think, lived up to about that time,.  But I don’t know his exact death state but they were all comrades or close on the heels of one another.

And during the time of the pre-revolution which would have been the time of Jefferson and Washington, they tried to stand against the king in Virginia colonies.  They were going to release slaves. And you can hear a whole lecture about this by re-enactors at Williamsburg in Virginia.

And I did listen to one of the lectures and was fascinated and asked lots of questions one day when I was down there.  They said that Thomas Jefferson tried to release something about 260 some slaves that he had inherited.  You know, like they would pass this down in somebody”€™s will.

And the teaching was terrible of that day they.  Believed they were the new Israel and people had wrongfully taught them. Faith comes by hearing by the word.  But if the word is incorrectly taught it will come by that as well. And they were being taught, like the patriarchs of old in the Old Testament, that they could have slaves.

So these men begin to realize this was a wrong teaching.  How could they express the desire for freedom through the United States, the Declaration of Independence and other documents they were forging, if they their self had slaves?


That”€™s right.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

But when they tried to fight the issue, they would have had to have lived. Thomas Jefferson would have had to live to be over 200 years old himself to be allowed, by the king, to release six slaves a year. And then there was a terrible tariff concerning it where it would have damaged, not only what he had in his plantation, but their place they lived as well.

And that point there was no progression.  Once they came out of the slavery, where would they go? What would they do? This would take an evolution of society to properly work with that so they would not be further injured and taken advantage of.

At this point, they decided to drop the issue of trying to free the slaves and free the entire colony. So when they free the entire colony, Thomas Jefferson himself and others that wrote the Constitution documents and the Declaration of Independence, left leeway and room within it so that later this could occur and this could take place which it now has.

That doesn’t mean they were all full of tyranny and full of evil against the people of another race that they had grown up within their own home situations.  They actually had much discussion about it and wanted to free the slaves. And a document that Cotton Mather wrote a generation before them was very successful in outlining that that freedom should come to the people who had been brought to American slavery. So the North actually was releasing people from this before the South.


Wow. So much there that we just don’t teach anymore.  And you can see why there’s so, you know.  It’s so easy to lead people astray because of our lack of information, our lack of education on these things.  As you alluded to even in just reading cursive let alone knowing what these Founders actually said and did.

What would be the best resource for us to send people to?  Either – your website or wherever you recommend, to dive further into this topic?

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

Well, they can come to our website at  Then we have a resolution that we are working on right now with the Congress and we have a button they can push on  This button will allow them to vote on the resolution.

It very clearly outlines this issue and it says it’s mimicking the *Verstraete resolution that we received unanimous Senate vote on.  This one will go to the House of Congress and want it go straight to the desk of the president as well. And it says that our national anthem shall remain to the perpetuity of the nation and it is outlining the proper protocol and it discusses this issue very briefly as to why this is not against people of one particular race in our nation.

Then they can also on Google just look up Grace Wisher, on our page.  Can look at a tab for kids and they can click on that tab and it’ll take them to an outline of everything in the Grace Wisher story and any of the historical links.


That’s great.

Francis Scott Key, The Abolitionist

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

I would encourage them just to go to Wikipedia and Google also and look up the story and the history of Francis Scott Key, the abolitionist.  You have to step back and say you know, we pray for everybody with the commission that God gave to Adam to rule, to dominate, to fix the planet, to put it back in order.  Why doesn’t that get done?

Because they suddenly get attacked by everything their constituents and all of the tagging, pulling, sucking, heaving, entities have upon them once they start to run for office. So our main thing that we should be doing right now is not picking up a weapon to fight anyone, but getting on our knees to pray for the eyes of everybody’s understanding to be open to see that God has won us such a great liberty and victory such a bloody cost to it.

And the North gave a blessing to the south after the war was over by allowing them to put up statues of their generals such as Robert E. Lee.  Because Robert Lee was a well-known Christian figure. He didn’t have the right teaching about slavery in his background.  As I said earlier in the broadcast, because of the things that were taught from pulpits where he lived.

But nevertheless, the great benevolence of the north in the winning of the Civil War was to allow there to be honor and healing. Right now what we’re doing to change history and tear down statues, and pick up * and fuss with one another like this is going completely in the wrong direction in front of our enemy.


It is, it is, no doubt about it. Dr. Emanuel – thank you so much. And again, the website So much more information there as well and really looking forward to the new book when it comes out next year. Look forward to having you back on that as well. Thanks for your time today.

Dr. Shelli Manuel:

You’re welcome. God bless you.


Going to take a quick break.  We’ll be right back on WallBuilders Live.

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Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live. Thanks to Dr. Shelli Manuel for joining us today as well. We”€™re back with David and Tim.  And guys, what a  man.  I mean, she just kept going with a great wealth of information. I felt like I just got a full education in one program.


Well, it was so fun talking to her. She brought up some founding families and started going into details about documents she had and read and it was just good stuff. But again going back to Key and showing that he’s an ardent abolitionist.  That he was so much a friend of the blacks, that when he got in court they called him the “€œN”€ lawyer.

You know the pejorative N-word because that was their way of demeaning him because he’s always in there defending the blacks.  Suddenly, today he’s a racist.  What is the deal with this? It’s amazing.

And, by the way, she said one thing I’m not sure the folks know today. She talked about the indentured servants.   That even her family came over as indentured servants. And what that is is really like paying off alone. That’s like saying, hey, to go from England to America and get to Southern America’s going to be about eight thousand dollars to do that. You’ll make about fifteen hundred dollars a year so we’ll loan you the eight thousand dollars if you go over and work for seven years then the debt”€™s paid off and it’s all you’re totally free.

Indentured Servants Are Not Slaves

Indentured servants are not slaves.  That’s a way of paying off the loan that they gave you.  They fronted the money upfront.  It is not slavery, not to be considered slavery. And she pointed out how patriotic they were.  They came here and worked.  And, man, they were the ones that really stood up for the country.


Well, and I”€™ll tell you the thing that stuck out to me that I certainly never heard this story before, where the when the black congressman dies, and there’s 72 horses and carriages, and Key is the only white guy there.






That to proves he’s a racist, doesn’t it?


Right. Like if you were a racist guy, I’m pretty sure the blacks aren’t letting you hang out at this funeral. I mean. like it’s just it’s so counterintuitive to what we hear about this guy today.

But when you start learning more of these details and stories that certainly today we know, and we talked about how when you look at that third verse and it talks about the “€œhireling and the slave”€ that probably that was the Americans being enslaved there on the British ships.  We got into that.


The impressment issue, yeah.


And then to hear her say, “€œOh, well, that’s exactly what he’s talking about because he is actually in prison on a ship at the moment.”€ It makes so much more sense.  But these are details today that we’ve just never heard.


Yeah. But it does clear up the issue.  And it’s something that we can all share with those around us when they talk about the — because right now that is the hot rays.  The national anthem is a racist anthem.  

Francis Scott Key, they deface his monument in Baltimore, wrong stuff. This is a good guy.  He is not a racist.  Nor is the anthem racist.

Misinformation About Francis Scott Key and the National Anthem


It’s unfortunate that so many people are being misled by the misinformation about Francis Scott Key and the national anthem.  And feel like they’ve now got a just cause to not stand for it, not be part of it.  When in fact it is exactly the opposite of what they’re being told.

So get that information out there.  Share this program with your friends or family.  E-mail it out and share it on Facebook. Thanks for listening today, folks, you’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.