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Pledge of Allegiance History: Iconic Poem Through the Years

Image: Pledge of Allegiance History: Iconic Poem Through the Years
Fourth graders at Longstreth Elementary School pledge allegiance to the flag March 24, 2004 in Warminster, Pennsylvania. (William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

By    |   Sunday, 09 Nov 2014 11:26 AM

The Pledge of Allegiance has become an American tradition. The simple poem has had its share of controversy and has survived court challenges and changes through its 120-year-plus history.

The pledge was originally penned by Francis Bellamy as a part of the 1892 celebration of Columbus Day. That year marked the 400th anniversary of the Columbus landing. The World’s Columbian Exposition was going on that year in Chicago, and there was a push to have some kind of national way for school children to mark the occasion.

ALERT: Should 'One Nation Under God' Stay in the Pledge of Allegiance? Vote Now

A magazine called the Youth’s Companion hired Bellamy, who was also chairman of a committee of state superintendents of education in the National Education Association. He was tasked with putting together a program for school children across the nation to take part in as a part of Columbus Day celebrations that year. 

The Youth’s Companion was a supporter of getting flags in school houses, so Bellamy created a flag ceremony that included the pledge and a salute. The first pledge, published in the magazine on September 8, 1892, was slightly different than the one used today.

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” it read. 

Schoolchildren recited the pledge and carried out the flag ceremonies on October 12, 1892 in conjunction with the opening of the World’s Columbian Exposition.

VOTE NOW: Should the Pledge of Allegiance Be Changed?

The pledge gained popularity, but as people recited it, they also saw a need for change. In the early 1920s, the words “my flag” did not seem adequate. Through several alterations, the pledge was finally changed to “the flag of the United States of America.”

In 1942, Congress officially recognized the pledge, but a year later, the Supreme Court weighed whether school children should be forced to recite it. 

In 1954, after lobbying from the Knights of Columbus, the words “under God” were added to the pledge. At the time, President Eisenhower said the addition was a nod to the country’s religious heritage and a reminder to be humble as a nation.

In 2014, some groups pushed to remove “under God” from the pledge. The American Humanist Association argued that the phrase “implies true patriots must be believers.” 

The Supreme Court has avoided addressing the constitutionality of “under God” in the pledge, instead opting to assert the legality of the Pledge of Allegiance in general. The basic argument is that since reciting the pledge of allegiance is a free-will choice, it does not infringe on a citizen’s freedom of speech or religion.

URGENT: Do You Think 'One Nation Under God' Should be Removed from the Pledge of Allegiance? Vote Here Now!

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The Pledge of Allegiance has become an American tradition. The simple poem has had its share of controversy and has survived court challenges and changes through its 120-year-plus history.
pledge of allegiance, history, poem
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2014-26-09
Sunday, 09 Nov 2014 11:26 AM
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