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"DIXIE." The song "Dixie" traditionally is attributed to the white minstrel violinist Daniel Decatur Emmett. An immediate popular hit in 1859, "Dixie" was adopted—with new lyrics by General Albert Pike—as the Confederate anthem during the Civil War. A century later "Dixie" became inextricable from the massive resistance of white southerners to the civil rights movement. However, historical affiliations of "Dixie" with blackface minstrelsy and white southern racism have been complicated by late-twentieth-century scholarship associating the song with African American neighbors of Emmett in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

The standard account is that Emmett wrote "Dixie"—originally entitled "I Wish I Was in Dixie's Land"—for Bryant's Minstrels, who with Emmett himself on violin, premiered the song on Broadway on 4 April 1859. The etymology of the word "Dixie" is highly debatable: it has been traced to a slaveholder named Dixey; to "dix," a ten-dollar note issued in Louisiana; and to the Mason-Dixon Line. Emmett himself commented that "Dixie" was a showman's term for the black South. Hence, many scholars have interpreted Emmett's song as an inauthentic and racist product of northern minstrelsy. By contrast, critics interrogating Emmett's authorship of "Dixie" have usually questioned how a man from Ohio could have come into contact with the southern black culture evoked in the song. However, Howard and Judith Sacks have demonstrated, in Way up North in Dixie: A Black Family's Claim to the Confederate Anthem (1993), that Emmett could have learned "Dixie" from the Snowdens, an African American family of musicians resident in Emmett's hometown, Mount Vernon. Their book further argues that the original lyrics of "Dixie" may be the semi-autobiographical account of Ellen Snowden, formerly a slave in Maryland.


Nathan, Hans. Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962.

Sacks, Howard L., and Judith Rose Sacks. Way up North in Dixie: A Black Family's Claim to the Confederate Anthem. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.


See alsoMinstrel Shows .

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