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O Say Can You Hear?: A Cultural Biography of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  • Date: Wednesday, July 06, 2022
  • Time: 1:00 pm
  • Location: Online

Author Mark Clague will discuss the history of America’s national anthem, the stories of the song and the nation it represents, and its powerful meaning today. Examining the origins of both text and music, alternate lyrics and translations, and the song’s use in sports, at times of war, and for political protest, he argues that the anthem’s meaning reflects—and is reflected by—the nation’s quest to become a more perfect union. An entire chapter is devoted to some of the most famous performances of the anthem, from Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock to Roseanne Barr at a baseball game to the iconic Whitney Houston version from the 1991 Super Bowl. From its first lines Key’s lyric poses questions: “O say can you see?” “Does that banner yet wave?” The book raises important questions about the banner; what it meant in 1814, what it means to us today, and why it matters.

July 4th at the National Archives is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of John Hancock, AARP, and Dykema.