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The Racist History of America's Patriotic Anthems

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A famous black athlete once said, "I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a black man in a white world."

No, that isn’t a Colin Kaepernick quote — Jackie Robinson said those words in his 1972 autobiography. Kaepernick and Robinson aren’t anomalies for tackling the anthem’s key role in the reconciliation of what it means to be black and American. At the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously held up their fists during the national anthem. In 1959, at the Pan Am Games, Rose Robinson is believed to have been the first black athlete to refuse to stand for the national anthem.


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