Coalition calls for ditching 'racist' Francis Scott Key, naming new bridge after late congressman

A coalition of African American groups in Maryland is pushing for Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge to be renamed once reconstructed over what they say is racism connected to Key's legacy. 

The Caucus of African American Leaders of Anne Arundel County recently voted unanimously to call for changing the names of two bridges in Maryland, including the Key Bridge, and will lobby Democratic Gov. Wes Moore and the state's Democrat-controlled General Assembly on the proposal, the Baltimore Banner first reported Tuesday. The bridge collapsed in late March when a cargo ship struck a support beam. 

The coalition includes groups such as an NAACP chapter and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, which wants the replacement bridge to be renamed in honor of the late Rep. Parren Mitchell, the first African American elected to the U.S. House from the state of Maryland. Mitchell was also a civil rights pioneer as the first Black graduate student admitted to the University of Maryland.


When asked about the proposal, Moore told Fox News Digital that he remains "laser-focused on providing closure to these families, clearing the channel, and rebuilding the bridge."

However, the Baltimore Banner said that Moore told reporters on Monday that he thinks there will "be a time for that" conservation later.

A spokesperson for the Caucus of African American Leaders told Fox News Digital they believe "public structures and buildings that taxpayers pay for shouldn't be named in honor of people who owned slaves."

Their issue with the bridge keeping its name after Key, the author of the national anthem, stems from his "legacy" being clouded with "accusations of racism," the Baltimore Banner wrote.

The Banner noted that Key, an attorney by profession, purchased enslaved people but also represented some Black Marylanders in court who sued for their freedom.


An Oil on Panel portrait of Francis Scott Key (fragment). Attributed to Joseph Wood (1778-1830). Collection of the Walters Art Museum. (Public Domain)

They also quote Key as having said Black Americans are "a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community," which has received pushback as an "erroneous" quote from the Star Spangled Banner Foundation. 

"A racist quote attributed to Francis Scott Key, the author of the lyrics to 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' has been circulating in news articles and blog posts," the foundation wrote in 2020. "Incorrectly credited to Key as a first-person expression of his attitudes about race in the United States, the quote asserts that free Blacks are "a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community."

"The quote is taken from page 40 of Jefferson Morley's generally insightful 2012 book Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835)," the foundation continued. "Morley, in turn, cites as his sole source a quote in the 1937 biography Francis Scott Key: Life and Times by Edward S. Delaplaine. This biography is the source of confusion as to the quote's speaker."

Conservatives on social media previously speculated about a possible push to rename the Key Bridge once it is eventually rebuilt, due to past efforts to "cancel" the famed attorney and poet and a news article hinting at his "controversial" past.

"Baltimore obviously won’t rename the new bridge after Francis Scott Key again," GOP Rep. Mike Collins posted on X responding to the bridge collapsing.

"So, any guesses on the new bridge name?"

"What do you bet, that when the Francis Scott Key Bridge is rebuilt, there will be a major push to rename the bridge?" Texas Public Policy Foundation Chief National Initiatives Officer Chuck DeVore posted on X.


Photo courtesy Baltimore County Fire Department Rescue 1 Team

Others on social media also previously pointed to an article from The Associated Press suggesting that it was the beginning of an attempt to frame the conversation around Key’s past.

The campaigns of Rep. David Trone and Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, Democrats seeking the party nomination for U.S. Senate, did not respond to a request for comment on the proposal by the time of publication. 

Republican Maryland Senate candidate Larry Hogan's campaign likewise did not provide a comment on the proposal. 

Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a former NAACP president whose U.S. House district includes the Key Bridge, also did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication. 

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