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Civil War Music In The 20th Century
Dixie Land
Dixie Land
Performed by Peerless Quartet
Recorded November, 1915
Written by Daniel Decatur Emmett
The lyrics of "Dixie" reflect the mood of the United States in the late 1850s toward growing abolitionist sentiment. The song presents the point of view, common to minstrelsy at the time, that slavery was overall a positive institution. The pining slave had been used in minstrel tunes since the early 1850s, including Emmett's "I Ain't Got Time to Tarry" and "Johnny Roach". The fact that "Dixie" and its precursors are dance tunes only further makes light of the subject. In short, "Dixie" makes the case, more strongly than any previous minstrel tune had, that slaves belong in bondage. This is accomplished through the song's protagonist, who, in pseudo-black dialect, implies that despite his freedom, he is homesick for the plantation of his birth.

"Dixie", also known as "I Wish I Was in Dixie", "Dixie's Land", and by other titles, is a popular American song. It is one of the most distinctively American musical products of the 19th century, and probably the best-known song to have come out of blackface minstrelsy. Although not a folk song at its creation, "Dixie" has since entered the American folk vernacular. The song likely cemented the word "Dixie" in the American vocabulary as a synonym for the Southern United States.

Most sources credit Ohio-born Daniel Decatur Emmett with the song's composition; however many other people have claimed to have composed "Dixie", even during Emmett's lifetime. Compounding the problem of definitively establishing the song's authorship are Emmett's own confused accounts of its writing, and his tardiness in having "Dixie" copyrighted. The latest challenge has come on behalf of the Snowden Family of Knox County, Ohio, who may have collaborated with Emmett to write "Dixie".

The song originated in the blackface minstrel show of the 1850s and quickly grew famous across the United States. Its lyrics, written in a racist, exaggerated version of African American Vernacular English, tell the story of a freed black slave pining for the plantation of his birth. During the American Civil War, "Dixie" was adopted as a de facto anthem of the Confederacy. New versions appeared at this time that more explicitly tied the song to the events of the Civil War. Since the advent of the American Civil Rights Movement, many have identified the lyrics of the song with the iconography and ideology of the Old South. Today, "Dixie" is sometimes considered offensive, and its critics link the act of singing it to sympathy for the concept of slavery in the American South. Its supporters, on the other hand, view it as a legitimate aspect of Southern culture and heritage.

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Last modified July 11, 2012