|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.