Pledge of Allegiance: History and Meaning

Instructor: Brian Fraga
In this lesson, we'll examine the history of our nation's Pledge of Allegiance. We will examine when it was first written, who wrote it, and why it was written. We'll also look at its meaning and the additions to the Pledge that we are all familiar with today.

I Pledge Allegiance . . .

Children recite Pledge of Allegiance
Pledge

Every morning across our nation children, teachers, and staff stand at attention before our country's flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the start of the school day. This is not the only time our nation's pledge is recited. This ritual is also performed prior to the start of PTSA meetings, school district board meetings, and other after-school events. What is it about the Pledge that makes it an important part of the daily school routine? Before we can answer that question, we first must understand the history of the Pledge of Allegiance. We'll learn about when it was written and who wrote it. We'll also examine the meaning of the Pledge. Finally, we'll discuss the additions added to the original pledge and why those lines were added to our nation's pledge.

Who Wrote The Pledge?

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy in August, 1892. Bellamy, a minister, had been planning a celebration for the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World. Bellamy also served on a committee of superintendents in education. He wanted to create a strong sense of patriotism within our country. Remember, prior to the writing of our pledge, our nation's sense of togetherness had been broken following the end of the Civil War.

Here is the original Pledge of Allegiance:

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

Bellamy wanted the Pledge to be short and to the point. To help promote the acceptance of the Pledge of Allegiance, Bellamy began a flag campaign to sell and purchase our nation's flags with the help of public schools. Within the first year, over 25,000 had been purchased for classrooms around our country so the Pledge of Allegiance could be recited by school children.

Additions To The Pledge

The original language in our Pledge of Allegiance was meant to be short so it could be recited quickly. Several revisions to the original pledge have taken place over the years.

  • 1892 - The word 'to' was added so the pledge would read 'to the Republic'.
  • 1923 - The Daughters of the American Revolution changed the Pledge's words, 'my Flag,' to 'the Flag of the United States of America.' This change came about following the first National Flag Conference in 1923. The purpose for this change was to remove any confusion, for foreign-born children and adults, as to which flag the pledge was being recited to.

It now read: 'I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'

  • 1954 - With Americans concerned by the threat of Communism during this time, President Eisenhower asked Congress to add the words 'under God'.

Today it reads: 'I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'

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