Jingle Bells and How It May Be Racist
By Nonso Nwagbo
Christmas is incomplete without the melody of the Jingle Bells song. For children around the globe, it has become a tradition to hear the famous during Christmas.
These lads do not care about the origin of this song. They will give anything for the magical feeling it’s melody brings.
However, it is a different ball game for adults. The popular Christmas song may not be as pleasing as it was some years back for some people. It is not because they are adults or that the song has lost its vibes.
But because many of us now doubt the essence of the song, and that is because the song has been associated with racism a few times.
This article will focus on the possibility that the American classic is a that supports slavery. Here are five reasons why we think so.
#1. The Writer Supported Slavery
We may not know much about Lord Pierpoint, but we know his stand on slavery. This may not be enough reason to make a judgment. But it is significant enough to suggest one.
The famous Christmas song’s composer supported slavery on many occasions, and there are facts to back this claim.
While his brother and father took a fiery stand against slavery, Pierpoint supported the Confederacy. The controversy forced his brother to close his church and return to the North in 1859.
Despite the calamity that befalls his brother, Pierpoint enlisted with the Georgia Calvary, where he served as a company clerk.
The songwriter made his stance clear by writing Confederate anthems during the civil war. Some of these songs include, we conquer, or die, our battle flag, and strike for the south.
#2. No Consensus Concerning The Origin Of The Song
The controversy surrounding the exact location where Lord Pierpoint wrote the popular holiday song has culminated into a new claim that many are unwilling to accept.
It all started when Kyna Hamil, an assistant director and senior lecturer in the CAS Core curriculum, attempted to solve the mystery surrounding the origin of the song.
Several studies have shown that the song was written in Medford. But this is contested by people in Savannah, Georgia, where Pierpoint was buried.
Hamil was astonished by the fact that there are different stories about the song. She began the research while working as a volunteer with Medford Historical Society and Museum. Hamil recalled how they received calls asking them to do a story about jingle bells.
After her research, Hamil submitted that the American classic was used for something other than Christmas in Boston. Hamil maintained that the song was not written at Simpson Tavern in 1850 as many would have it.
According to the researcher, the song was first performed at John Ordway’s Ordway hall in Boston in the year 1857. Hamil also stated that the song was not called Jingle bell at the time. The song was called, ‘one-horse open sleigh’ instead.
The hall where ‘one-horse open sleigh’ was first performed was a hotspot for the entertainment of white men performing in black face, offering a racist caricature of people of color as middle-class entertainment.
It is important to point out that Hamil’s research was not premeditated. Her intention was not to debunk the famous Christmas song either.
#3. The Significance Of Black Face Performance
Performing in the black face has contributed to the spread of racial stereotypes since it emerged in America. The term, which refers to a theatrical make-up used by non-black performers, represented mockery of the black person.
Many research shows that such performance is enjoyed and used by people who fancies a form of slavery or another. This practice faced a lot of criticisms from the public for being offensive, disrespectful, and racist in the 20th century.
The activities of civil rights movements in the 1950s and 60s reduced the practice around the US. However, racial abuse is nowhere close to its end in America.
Since Hamil’s research showed that the song was first performed in this manner, there is adequate evidence to associate it with slavery. Pierpoint’s work may not have been borne out of the intention of producing racial content.
However, it is also unlikely for songs that are not racist to be performed in black face. The fact that Pierpoint supports slavery warrants this conclusion. For it is either the writer wrote the song as a racist song, or it was turned into one.
#4. The Myth of Jingle Bells
While the other three points are factual, this was born out of the association of ideas. Many individuals, especially black activists, believe Jingle bells can mean only one thing. It is nothing but a representation of slavery.
This claim is taken from historical times when slaves were forced to wear collar bells around the neck. It was believed that this practice was used to deter slaves from escaping from their masters.
Some even claimed that the practice made the lives of slaves miserable as it denied them every kind of privacy. But what has Pierpoint song got to do with this?
Proponents of the view that Jingle Bells is a racist song believed that the writer’s work was an attempt to represent the slavery experience. It mocks black and their history.
Though they are aware that Jingle bells were not the original title of the song, Pierpoint critics maintained that the lyrics suggest otherwise. Some of them pointed out that embedded in the lyrics are words that could be translated as racial.
We hope you understand that this article is in no way against Christmas. It is rather an attempt to provide insight into the essence of the favorite holiday songs. I’m sure we have done justice to that.
While we consider this information important, there’s still no need to make this Christmas boring. This holiday season, try to spread love to everyone around you. Remember that is what Christmas is all about.