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Mark Clague with O Say Can You Hear? A Cultural Biography of "The Star-Spangled Banner"

Author Event
September 12, 2022 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. ET

Presented by the American Inspiration series in partnership with GBH Forum Network

Moderated by Kristina R. Gaddy, author of Well of Souls: Uncovering the Banjo's Hidden History


In this fascinating history of our national anthem, you’ll learn how and why one everyday “broadside ballad” that captured the events and emotions of early American life rose to become America’s one and only anthem.

Most Americans learn the tale in elementary school: how Francis Scott Key was inspired to pen his famous lyric as he saw the Stars and Stripes flying proudly over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry following the daylong bombardment of British navy ships during the War of 1812. The anthem’s use in sports, at times of war, and for political protest, have imbued it with further meaning, says historian Mark Clague. The anthem reflects—and is reflected by—the nation’s quest to become a more perfect union. From victory song to hymn of sacrifice and vehicle for protest, the story of Key’s song is the story of America itself. Don’t miss this enlightening presentation and discussion about our beloved anthem, and about America from 1814 to the present.


Mark Clague


Mark Clague is professor of musicology and American culture at the University of Michigan; associate dean at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance; and codirector of the American Music Institute.


Kristina Gaddy Well of Souls book


Kristina R. Gaddy is the author of Well of Souls: Uncovering the Banjo’s Hidden History and Flowers in the Gutter. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, among other publications.