Pomona College Will Not Permit the Singing of Its Alma Mater at Its Commencement Ceremony: Song Was Part of a 1909 Blackface Minstrel Show

This coming Sunday, Pomona College, the highly selective liberal arts institution in Claremont, California, will hold its 115th Commencement ceremony. But this year the singing of the college’s alma mater — “Hail, Pomona, Hail” — has been left off the program.

Recently it was revealed that the song had been composed in 1909 as the closing number of a blackface minstrel show. The 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.

Dean of students Miriam Feldblum states that the news of the song’s origins “generated great distress” on campus. As a result, Pomona president David Oxtoby decided to remove the alma mater from this year’s graduation ceremony. He appointed a committee to look into the matter and all other songs relating to the college. The college will employ two interns this summer who will research the college’s alma mater and other such songs in the context of the history and the time in which they were written.

After a “campus conversation,” which will take place through the fall semester, a decision will be made about the future use of “Hail, Pomona, Hail.”