America’s National Anthem: “The Star-Spangled Banner” in U.S. History, Culture, and Law

ABC-CLIO. Jan. 2021. 350p. ISBN 9781440873188. $97. REF
Vile (political science, Middle Tennessee State Univ.) provides an in-depth and balanced analysis of the U.S. national anthem as a significant historical symbol. His previous books have capably explored the symbolism of the American flag, the Declaration of Independence, and the Liberty Bell. Here, Vile notes that the national anthem has, for the most part, been a unifying symbol for Americans, but he also reports on historical and current dissent, such as football player Colin Kaepernick protesting racism by kneeling when the national anthem is played at his NFL games. This volume also addresses the anthem’s third verse, which refers to “the hireling and the slave.” Vile points out that its writer, Francis Scott Key, was a slaveholder; he also devotes an entry to abolitionist A. Atlee’s critique of the anthem. The book begins with an extensive time line and “The National Anthem: Performance, Ritual, and Music,” an essay by Joseph Morgan (music, Middle Tennessee State Univ.), followed by 180 alphabetically arranged essays organized around themes such as historic connections, musical genres, parodies, and performers. Frequent visuals and primary documents round out the volume.
VERDICT Intended for readers interested in American history and culture, this insightful, well-researched work offers a nuanced and balanced look at one of the United States’ core historical markers.
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