Pomona College to Keep Its Alma Mater Despite Its Connection to a Blackface Minstrel Show

This past May, Pomona College, the highly selective liberal arts institution in Claremont, California, canceled the singing of the college’s alma mater — “Hail, Pomona, Hail” — at its commencement exercises.

The reason for the cancellation was because the song had been composed in 1909 as the closing number of a blackface minstrel show. The college wanted time to investigate whether it was proper to continue to use the song.

The 1909 minstrel show was produced to raise money to buy new uniforms for the college’s baseball team. There is nothing in the song itself that can be construed as being racially derogatory.

Pomona president David Oxtoby appointed a committee to look into the matter. Now, in a compromise, President Oxtoby has reinstated “Hail, Pomona, Hail” as the college’s official alma mater but has also decided not to have the song used as part of the college’s annual commencement ceremonies. In making his decision, Oxtoby said, “There is the troubling idea that all things associated with an imperfect past should be considered tainted even if there is nothing inherently objectionable about them.”