Is Jingle Bells racist? The Christmas carol’s origins explored
News

Is Jingle Bells racist? The Christmas carol’s origins explored

Jingle Bells might rank among the most popular and easy to remember Christmas carols of all-time and a song loved by millions the world over.

But one American college professor previously uncovered concerning evidence suggesting the song has more controversial origins than previously thought.

According to Boston University professor Kyna Hamill, the song actually has surprisingly racist roots. Hamill made the discovery while trying to uncover the birthplace of the song.

The origins of Jingle Bells has been the source of contention for some time is US, with the towns of Medford, Massachusetts and Savannah in Georgia laying claim to being the birthplace of the song, which was written by James Lord Pierpont.

However, during her research Hamill uncovered an old pamphlet that suggests the song was first performed as part of a minstrel show at Ordway Hall in Boston back in 1857.

Speaking to the Boston Herald, Hamill said: “In 1857 when it was performed in blackface – that is white men blackening up with burnt cork on their faces – it would have been racist.

Advertisement

“This performance tradition is historical fact and continued in the U.S. until the 1930s as an amateur entertainment.”

Hamill has always been keen to stress that the song is not racist and that people should continue to sing it.

“I did not write the article to make people upset. At no point have I ever made a claim on what people should or should not sing at Christmas,” she said.

Hamill added: “Its origins emerged from the economic needs of a perpetually unsuccessful man, the racial politics of antebellum Boston, the city’s climate, and the inter-theatrical repertoire of commercial blackface performers moving between Boston and New York.”