Considered one of its many shameful decisions, the Supreme Court sadly chose to define slaves as property.
Only a portion of the slaves were returned to Africa where they founded the colony of New Georgia in Liberia.
For a brief time, the American Colonization Society to settle West Africa was considered as a solution to the race problem.
Key raised $11,000 to help those Africans who wanted to attempt this.
In 1833, Francis Scott Key was executor of the Will of Senator John Randolph, cousin of Thomas Jefferson.
John Randolph, in his Will written in 1819, arranged for all his 400 slaves to be freed, writing: "I give and bequeath to all my slaves their freedom, heartily regretting that I have ever been the owner of one."
Randolph's Will of 1822 provided money for the transportation, supplies and land for his freed slaves to settle in the free State of Ohio. Each slave above the age of 40 was to receive 10 acres of land.
Family members challenged the Will in court, but after Key fought a decade long legal battle, the Will was successfully upheld.
The former "Randolph Slaves" arrived in Cincinnati in 1846, and eventually settled Rossville, Ohio, near the town of Piqua.
They established Cyrene African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1853; Second Baptist Church, 1857; African Baptist Church, 1869; and a Jackson African Cemetery, 1866, which had a gravestone engraved with: "Born A Slave -- Died Free."
During the Civil War, some from this settlement were the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. military.
In Washington, D.C., in early June, 1842, a respected free black, William "Billy" Costin, died.
Costin had been an activist fighting to remove the District of Columbia slave codes.
There was a long procession of men on horseback following the casket to the cemetery, all were African-American except for one white man, Francis Scott Key.
Key, who had been U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., was described by an abolitionist newspaper:
"It must be admitted that for a distinguished citizen of Washington to ride alone among a large number of colored men in doing honor to the memory of a deceased citizen of color evinces an elevation of soul above the meanness of popular prejudice, highly honorable to Mr. Key's profession as a friend of men of color. He road alone."
Contrary to those who simplistically categorize and condemn historical figures, the reality is more complicated.
Just as today, many are evolving in their views to realize that abortion is wrong--killing an unborn human, back then, many were evolving in their views to realize that slavery was wrong--the enslaving of another human.
Key was a Democrat who exhibited this conflicting behavior. He owned several slaves, which by all accounts were treated humanely, yet he also freed several slaves.
Key represented slave owners in some cases, yet he had a reputation for providing free legal advice to slaves and free blacks in Washington, defending them in court.
Writing for The Baltimore Sun, July 26, 2014, Mary Carole McCauleywrote:
"What raised eyebrows was that Key also donated his legal services to some African-Americans who were fighting for their freedom under a 1783 law that prohibited slaveholders from other states from bringing their human chattle into Maryland to live. Key won several of those cases."
Marc Leepson admitted in What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014):
"It was rare for a white lawyer to do that. That was a gutsy thing for him to do ... He was an early and ardent opponent of slave trafficking."
Key stood in front of the jail and drove away a mob intending to lynch Arthur Bowne, who on the night of August 4, 1835, had entered the bedroom of his master's widow and her mother with an axe under his arm, having been drinking with an abolitionist friend.
Bowne was found guilty, but President Andrew Jackson pardoned him.
A former Baltimore school teacher and author Karsonya Wise Whitehead wrote:
"Risking his life to defend black people was not something that he had to do. It was something that he chose to do. So was his decision to own slaves. His contradictions were America's contradictions."
Annette Palmer, chair of Morgan State University's history department, stated:
"You have to put Key's views in context. You can't look at the 19th century through the eyes of the 21st century. In 1814, slavery was everywhere in society."
Rev. John T. Brooke wrote:
"If ever man was a true friend of the African race, that man was Francis Scott Key. Throughout his own region of the country, he was proverbially the colored man's friend. He was their standing gratuitous advocate in courts of justice, pressing their rights to the extend of the law, and ready to brave odium or even personal even personal danger in their behalf."