Boston Professor Proclaims ‘Jingle Bells’ a ‘Racist’ Song

1957: Three young carol singers give their rendering of a Christmas song in the falling snow. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Keystone/Getty Images
Medford, MA

A professor at Boston University has proclaimed Christmas carol favorite “Jingle Bells” to be a “racist song” and is urging people to shun the jaunty tune.

Kyna Hamill, a theater history professor at Boston University, recently told the Boston Globe that the venerable Christmas song has a “secret” racist past that has been “systematically” hidden from Americans as they celebrate the Christmas season.

“The history of the song has remained hidden behind its local and season affection,” Hamill told the paper. She continued saying the song’s “blackface and racist origins have been subtly and systematically removed from its history.”

Hamill claims the song, written 160 years ago by James Pierpont, was written to ridicule black people and was first performed in a blackface minstrel hall in Boston in 1857.

The professor said that her study of the history of the song proved that the song was made to satirize how black people reacted to winter activities such as sleigh riding. The comedy routine was to portray blacks as “behaving foolishly, grotesquely, and incompetently” in unfamiliar situations.

But, Hamill claims that over time the minstrel origins of the song faded away as people continued singing it during the Christmas holiday.

Hamill also points out that the song’s author later joined the Confederate army and wrote fight songs and patriotic airs for the nascent Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

With her research in hand, the professor is urging the town of Medford, Massachusetts to drop its annual celebration that Pierpont wrote “Jingle Bells” in their town and forever shun the “racist” song going forward.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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