Posted on June 16, 2021

Toppled Francis Scott Key Statue Replaced by African Figures

Barbara Goldberg and Nathan Frandino, Reuters, June 11, 2021

One year after a statue of Francis Scott Key was toppled by racial injustice protesters in Golden Gate Park, an art exhibit opens next week with 350 slave sculptures gathered around the space once dedicated to the “The Star-Spangled Banner” creator – a slaveholder himself.

To be unveiled on the June 19 holiday marking emancipation from slavery in America, the exhibit titled “Monumental Reckoning” is on the spot where Key’s statue was dislodged on Juneteenth 2020. {snip}

Key was a slaveholding lawyer from a Maryland plantation family, and his 1814 poem, which was later set to music and became the U.S. national anthem in 1931, includes a defense of bondage written into its third stanza, historians say.

Gathered around the empty plinth are 350 black steel sculptures – each 4 feet (1.2 meters) high – that represent Africans kidnapped and forced onto a slave ship headed across the Atlantic from Angola in 1619. {snip}

“We are standing for justice in that space, for everyone who has been oppressed,” said California sculptor Dana King, who created the artwork. {snip}


King said visitors will learn that, aside from being a slave owner, Key in his role as district attorney of Washington, D.C., successfully lobbied President Andrew Jackson to appoint his brother-in-law, Roger Taney, to the U.S. Supreme Court. Seated on the nation’s highest court, Taney famously wrote the Dred Scott decision {snip}

The exhibit also will spotlight the rarely sung third verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” although it is still being decided exactly how that information will be conveyed, King said.


King said “Monumental Reckoning” targets both “systems of oppression” and individuals who need to self-reflect on “what needs to be fixed on behalf of others,” including bigoted views.