Dixie

Dixie has been another name for the US Southeast since the Civil War. It usually means the states of the Confederacy plus Arkansas and Kentucky, which did not join the others. There are several theories on where the name came from, but the only credible story involves two British surveyors who in 1767 laid out the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland. The surveyors were Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, and their line was sometimes called the “Mason Dixon Line.” The surveyors might have been just a footnote to regional history, but in 1859 one Daniel Decatur Emmett wrote a minstrel song, which seems to have been titled “Dixie’s Land,” although several different titles exist. The minstrel form of entertainment often featured white entertainers performing in blackface, and Dixie the song emerged in this context. It became wildly popular at the same time that the country split apart. Dixie became the unofficial anthem of the Confederacy, and “Dixie” as a noun came to refer to the whole US Southeast. Authorship of the song remains contested. The blackface entertainment that Dixie was written for has long since vanished. Dixie in its various forms, from song to regional identification is now deeply embedded in American culture. The song still retains a hint of rebellion.

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