A public school in New York state chose not to sing Christmas’ “Jingle Bells” because of the claim that its origins are linked to 19th-century minstrel shows.
The Rochester Beacon reported on December 23 that “‘Jingle Bells’ isn’t being sung anymore at Brighton’s Council Rock Primary School” because — according to Council Rock principal Matt Tappon — it has “the potential to be controversial or offensive.”
“Tappon and other staff confirmed by email that the decision to remove the song was based in part on information in a 2017 article written by professor Kyna Hamill, director of Boston University’s Core Curriculum,” the Beacon explained. “Hamill’s article is a deep dive (nearly 12,000 words including appendices and footnotes) into the origin of ‘Jingle Bells,’ the life of its composer, James L. Pierpont, and the popularity of sleigh songs in the mid-1800s. She found documents showing that the song’s first public performance may have occurred in 1857 at a Boston minstrel show. Minstrelsy was a then-popular form of entertainment in which white actors performed in blackface.”
When told that the school removed “Jingle Bells” in part because of her research, Hamill responded, “I am actually quite shocked the school would remove the song from the repertoire. … I, in no way, recommended that it stopped being sung by children.”