J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Song of the South

No one knows for sure where the word “dixie” originated. Some believe that it was a shortened nickname referring to the Mason-Dixon Line, while others think it came from ten-dollar notes that were widely used and issued from Louisiana (“dix” is French for “ten). By the 1850’s, the term “dixie” was directly associated with the South.

The song “Dixie’s Land” is commonly believed to have been written by Daniel Emmett, although others emerged who contested this. The melody became popular in black face minstrel shows, and after the start of the War Between the States, became the Southern anthem. (The North felt as though it needed an anthem as well, so it adopted the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.) Many variations in the lyrics appeared at this time, as was common practice back then. The song was played at both President Lincoln’s and President Davis’ inaugurations. It was a favorite of Lincoln’s, who also requested that the song be played during the Grand Review after the war was over. And, of course, it was played at Emmett’s funeral.

Unfortunately, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, “Dixieland” became associated with negative, racist implications, rather than having been considered as an important piece of history, ancestry, and Southern heritage. Recently, it was banned from being played at Ole Miss sporting events. When local school children in Mississippi were asked if they knew the song, none of them recognized it. Personally, I think that’s a shame.

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3 thoughts on “Song of the South

  1. John Hall on said:

    Madam..you are a breath of fresh air. I am pleased to see a lady write common sense into the discussion of the South. Have you ever heard of Celestine Sibley of the Atlanta Journal Constitution? She died several years ago..your writing reminds me of hers.

  2. I am the Senior VP of Interpretation for a living history society in northern Ohio, and at many of our events we play the piano and sing Civil War era music. One of my favorites to play is “Dixie”. Normally, our guests either think we are ignorant because it is a “Southern song”, or perhaps our characters are Southern sympathizers. We proceed to them tell them that neither is true, that originally the song was written by an Ohio native and first performed on stage in New York, and that it is a favorite of President Lincoln! It wasn’t until later that the South adopted it as their “anthem”. It always turns out to be a fun, educational moment.

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