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"Rebel flag" based on battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia
Dark red indicates the states almost always included in modern-day definitions of Dixie, red – sometimes included (see Southern United States for the U.S. Census definition), while pale red – occasionally included due to their historic connections to the South. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Dixie is a historical nickname for the Southern United States, especially those states that composed the Confederate States of America. [5]


Bayou Navigation in Dixie, engraving of a Louisiana Steamboat, 1863

As a definite geographic location within the United States, "Dixie" is usually defined as the eleven Southern states that seceded in late 1860 and early 1861 to form the new confederation named the Confederate States of America. They are (in order of secession): South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Missouri and Kentucky never seceded from the Union, but many of their citizens favored the Confederacy, and both states produced Ordinances of Secession [6].

However, the location and boundaries of "Dixie" have become, over time, more limited, vernacular, and mercurial. Today, it is most often associated with those parts of the Southern United States where traditions and legacies of the Confederate era and the antebellum South live most strongly. [7] The concept of "Dixie" as the location of a certain set of cultural assumptions, mind-sets and traditions (along with those of other regions in North America) was explored in the 1981 book The Nine Nations of North America. [8]

Many businesses in the South contain "Dixie" in their name as an identifier, such as supermarket chain Winn-Dixie.

Origin of the name

Ten dollar note from Banque des citoyens de la Louisiane, 1860

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origins of this nickname remain obscure. According to A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles (1951), by Mitford M. Mathews, three theories most commonly attempt to explain the term:

  1. "Dixie" derives from Jeremiah Dixon, a surveyor of the Mason–Dixon line which defined the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania, and, for the most part, free and slave states subsequent to the Missouri Compromise. [9]. (Delaware, a Union border state, and slave state up to the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, lay outside the "Dixie" side of the survey line.)
  2. The word "Dixie" refers to currency issued first by the Citizens State Bank (located in the French Quarter of New Orleans) and then by other banks in Louisiana. [10] These banks issued ten-dollar notes, [11] labeled "Dix", French for "ten", on the reverse side. The notes were known as "Dixies" by English-speaking southerners, and the area around New Orleans and the French-speaking parts of Louisiana came to be known as "Dixieland". [5] Eventually, usage of the term broadened to refer to the Southern states in general.
  3. The word preserves the name of a "Mr. Dixy", a slave owner on Manhattan Island, where slavery was legal until 1827 (see History of slavery in New York). His rule was so kind that "Dixy's Land" became famed far and wide as an elysium abounding in material comforts.[ citation needed]


"I Wish I Was in Dixie"

"I Wish I Was in Dixie's Land" sheet music
Sheet music version

"I Wish I Was in Dixie" is a popular song about the South. It was allegedly written by composer Daniel Emmett, a Northerner from Mount Vernon, Ohio, and published in 1859. Emmett's claims of the origin of the song were many and varied. According to one such version, Emmett was taught the song by the Snowden family of African American musicians, then freemen of color, with the lyrics coming from a letter written longingly of life in the south by Evelyn Snowden to her father[ citation needed]. Emmett's blackface minstrel-show troupe debuted the song that same year in New York City when they needed a song to lengthen their presentation and it became an immediate hit. As with other minstrel show numbers, the song was performed in blackface and in exaggerated Black English vernacular. The song proved extremely popular and became widely known simply as "Dixie". The song has also been published as "Dixie's Land".

The song, played at the inauguration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in 1861 [5], became the unofficial anthem of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. The tune's minstrel-show origins have created a strong association of "Dixie" with the Old South, despite the fact that it was written in the North. As a result, some today perceive the song as offensive and racist while others see it as an honorable part of Southern heritage. Abraham Lincoln, upon hearing of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, asked the military band to play Dixie. [12] [13]




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