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Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key
Rembrandt Peale, 22 Feb 1778 - 3 Oct 1860
Francis Scott Key, 1779 - 1843
c. 1796
Oil on canvas
Frame: 85.7 × 76.2 cm (33 3/4 × 30")
Stretcher: 74 × 63.8 × 3 cm (29 1/8 × 25 1/8 × 1 3/16")
Francis Scott Key: Male
Francis Scott Key: Literature\Writer
Francis Scott Key: Politics and Government\Patriot
United States\Maryland\Anne Arundel\Annapolis
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; funded with support from the Secretary and the Smithsonian National Board and Chapter I - Baltimore, Maryland, The Colonial Dames of America, the Elizabeth Welsh Young Legacy Fund
Restrictions & Rights
Object number
Exhibition Label
Born Frederick County, Maryland
On September 13, 1814, when the War of 1812 (1812–15) was entering its third year, the Georgetown lawyer Francis Scott Key traveled to Baltimore to try to negotiate the release of a hostage. That night, Key—a staunch anti-abolitionist who enslaved people—watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry. The next morning, when he saw that the fort’s American flag had not been removed, he wrote a poem that was first published as “Defense of Fort M’Henry” and set to a popular British tune. His song was subsequently renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and more than a century later, in 1931, Congress adopted it as the national anthem.
During Key’s lifetime, abolitionists recognized that the line “the land of the free” was penned by an advocate of slavery with narrow views of freedom. Professional athletes, including Colin Kaepernick, have amplified this contradiction by “taking a knee” during the national anthem to protest systemic racism today.
Nacido en Frederick County, Maryland
El 13 de septiembre de 1814, cuando la Guerra de 1812 (1812–15) entraba en su tercer año, Francis Scott Key, abogado de Georgetown, viajó a Baltimore para negociar la libertad de un rehén. Esa noche, Key —antiabolicionista acérrimo con sirvientes esclavizados— observó el ataque al Fuerte McHenry. A la mañana siguiente, cuando vio que la bandera de EE.UU. aún ondeaba, escribió un poema publicado inicialmente como “Defensa del Fuerte M’Henry”, con música de una tonada popular inglesa. Su canción recibió luego el nombre de “La bandera estrellada” y pasado más de un siglo, en 1931, el Congreso la adoptó como himno nacional.
En vida de Key, los abolicionistas ya reconocían que el verso “la tierra de los libres” había sido escrito por un defensor de la esclavitud con una idea muy estrecha de la libertad. Atletas profesionales como Colin Kaepernick han subrayado esta contradicción hincando la rodilla durante el himno nacional para protestar contra el racismo sistémico actual.
The sitter; Mary Alicia Lloyd Nevins Key Pendleton, his daughter, Jane Francis Pendleton Brice (Mrs. Arthur Tilghman Brice, d. 1950), her daughter; Colonel Arthur Tilghman Brice II, 1892-1973, her son; Alice Key Pendleton Brice Joline (Mrs. John Forsyth Joline, Jr., d. 1983), his sister; Laurence Turnbull Joline, her son; Dorothy Doe Joline, Long Island, New York, his wife and the present owner
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
2022 Rehang of Out of Many: Portraits from 1600 to 1900
On View
NPG, East Gallery 136