Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to "My Country 'Tis of Thee" in 1831, while a student at the Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Massachusetts. His friend Lowell Mason had asked him to translate the lyrics in some German school songbooks or to write new lyrics. A melody in Muzio Clementi's Symphony No. 3 caught his attention. Rather than translating the lyrics from German, Smith wrote his own American patriotic hymn to the melody, completing the lyrics in thirty minutes.
Smith gave Mason the lyrics he had written and the song was first performed in public on July 4, 1831, at a children's Independence Day celebration at Park Street Church in Boston. First publication of "America" was in 1832.
^Jarius Lincoln, [ed.] Antislavery Melodies: for The Friends of Freedom. Prepared for the Hingham Antislavery Society. Words by A. G. Duncan. (Hingham, [Mass.]: Elijah B. Gill, 1843), Hymn 17 6s & 4s (Tune – "America") pp. 28–29. Some of these verses can be heard in the Arizona State University recording of the Antislavery Ensemble.
^Hansen, Drew D. (2003). The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation. New York, NY: Harper Collins. p. 83.