Francis Scott Key Monument
The Francis Scott Key Monument is located in Baltimore, Maryland on the corner of W. Lanvale Street and Eutaw Place. The monument commemorates Francis Scott Key, the writer of the Star-Spangled Banner, USA's national anthem. Despite Key’s description of America as, “the land of the free,” he participated in and defended the institution of slavery. The controversy surrounding the monument has occurred since its May 15, 1911 dedication. On June 19, 2020, protestors for the Black Lives Matter movement removed the statue.
Backstory and Context
Francis Scott Key, a Maryland lawyer, and former slave owner is the writer of the Star-Spangled Banner, otherwise known as America’s national anthem. Key composed the Star Spangled banner while on a boat in the Baltimore inner harbor on the night of September 13th, 1812 overlooking the bombardment taking place at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
In 1907, Baltimore resident, Charles Marburg, gave $25,000 to his brother, Theodore, to commission a monument to his favorite poet, Francis Scott Key. The Francis Scott Key Monument was unveiled to the public on May 15, 1911. The sculptor responsible for this project was France native, Jean Marius Antonin Mercie, who was known for monumental sculptures of Robert E. Lee (1890) in Richmond, Virginia, and General Lafeyette (1891) in the District of Columbia.
In 1999, former First Lady, Hillary Clinton, spoke at the monument on the importance of renovating and preserving America’s historical monuments. Several years later in April of 2015, Freddie Gray, a Baltimore African American teen, was wrongfully arrested and killed under police custody. This, along with the Charleston Church shooting in the summer of 2017, led to the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement.
Following the Charleston Church shootings, the former Mayor of Baltimore City, Catherine Pugh, decided to take down multiple confederate monuments around the city overnight. However, Pugh decided to keep the Francis Scott Key Monument intact. Nearly a month later, the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks workers discovered that the monument was splattered in bright red paint along with the phrase “Racist Anthem” spray-painted in black on various areas of the monument.
Baltimore city officials responded by restoring the monument and surrounding it with a 6-feet high chain-linked fence for protection from further damages. However, on June 19, 2020, protests against systemic racism and police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd led to the removal of the statue of Francis Scott Key by protestors.
Hopkins, J. (2019, May 7). Francis Scott Key Monument. Retrieved from https://explore.baltimoreheritage.org/items/show/105.
Johnson, M. (2016, September 3). Let's take the national anthem literally, and the songwriter at his word. Retrieved from https://theundefeated.com/features/lets-take-the-national-anthem-literally-and-the-songwriter-at-his-word/.
Pousson, E. (2017, September 22). Baltimore Isn't Done Fighting Over Monuments. Retrieved from https://www.citylab.com/design/2017/09/theres-nothing-new-about-fighting-over-memorials/540840/.
Torres, Ella. Protesters bring down statue of Francis Scott Key, https://abcnews.go.com/. June 20th 2020. Accessed September 21st 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/US/protesters-bring-statue-francis-key-scott/story?id=71359718.