American Icons: Dixie


Friday, July 05, 2013


This is the tune the nation brought to war.

It’s been a century-and-a-half since a minstrel tune called “Dixie” debuted in New York. The song went viral, and soon North and South alike were whistling “Dixie.” With the outbreak of the Civil War, “Dixie” became an anthem of the antebellum way of life. And today we are still fighting over “Dixie.” Studio 360’s Trey Kay asks why it continues to divide the nation.

(Originally aired: April 15, 2011)


Bonus Track: Elvis Sings "Dixie"
Elvis Presley sings "Dixie" as part of the song "American Trilogy."

Bonus Track: "Union Dixie"
"Dixie" was popular in the North and the South. Bobby Horton performs this version, just for Yankees.

Bonus Track: "Everybody's Dixie"
Horton performs extra verses for those partial to the South in "Everybody's Dixie."


Video: Bing Crosby sings “Dixie”
Minstrel shows aren’t ancient history. A black-faced Bing Crosby performed this version of “Dixie” in a 1943 movie of the same name.



Coleman Hutchinson, Glenn McConnell, Carol Moseley Braun and Phillip Wilkerson

Comments [9]

ARower from Maryland

I was driving down to Roanoke in the early '60s and passing through Luray at dusk. I was listening to a local radio AM station (WLUR??). It was common for AM stations to sign-off at sunset and play the National Anthem. I remember the announcer saying, "Please stand for the National Anthem." They played Dixie!

Aug. 02 2013 09:42 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

Hi Rachel -- Sorry for the slow response. It's working for us -- still glitchy for you? If so, let me know what browser you're using and we'll try to troubleshoot.

Jul. 15 2013 11:38 AM
Rachel from Santa Fe, NM, USA

Am I the only one for whom none of the embedded media is loading except the Bing Crosby?

Jul. 11 2013 04:51 PM
Marcia from Cleveland

I cracked up at the guy whining about "cultural genocide" since the song "Dixie" pretty much romanticizes the ACTUAL genocide of slavery.

Jul. 08 2013 01:42 PM
Christine from Washington, DC

I came of age in a small town in South Carolina during the Civil Rights era. I moved there several months before President Kennedy's assassination, when the town had separate school systems, separate library systems, separate everything. I left for college, never to return, the year before the school systems were finally combined. Token integration, known as "freedom of choice", began when I was in the eighth grade. I was in the high school band and we used to play Dixie at the drop of a hat. We played it when the players came on the field, when they scored a touchdown, and sometimes just for the heck of it. I was shocked when one of my black classmates told me how offensive he found it. I realized then that we would never be able to play it again, but I still miss it. Dixie was for me an expression of simple joy at being a southerner, not a longing for slavery and the Confederacy.

Jul. 07 2013 03:31 PM
Margery from New Hampshire

I never knew more than a few lyrics to Dixie. I mainly knew it as a cheerful tune that's far too easy to play when you pick up a harmonica. Before your show, my only clue that there was anything politically difficult about the song was on TV a number of years ago. Two performers hear the opening notes. One looks disgusted, and asks the other for confirmation: "Dixie?"
The other sadly agrees: "Dixie."
They sing: "Oh we're glad we're not in the land of cotton. Bad times there are best forgotten...."

Jul. 07 2013 12:15 PM
Herb from Dixie

To Bridget from Maryland
Quite a misinformed and hostile Yankee.
Freedom Summer--freedom for who?The North has just as much or more of a stain on them as the South when it comes to equal rights.
The Klan has no right to the song Dixie any more than they have rights to the Confederate flag or the U.S. flag for that matter.Their conduct is deplorable and with no merit and I resent any association with the song or flag.
Let us back in the Union---need to check your facts---we had no choice.The war could have been avoided had Mr.Lincoln just let us go our own way.He could not afford that though.
And yes mam the South is still an honorable place.

Jul. 06 2013 05:26 PM
Bridget from Maryland

This is addressed to the gentleman from South Carolina (and I use the term gentleman as a courtesy to the show).

It's is highly offensive for me as a white person to hear you talk about cultural genocide. Really? I'm just old enough to remember Freedom Summer. I'm old enough to have heard stories from relatives - white relatives but Irish Catholic - about not getting off the beaten track in North Carolina & South Carolina.

You really want to compare your not being able to play a song which the KLAN made offensive to the number of people who were lynched, raped & run out of the South? Really, that's your definition of cultural genocide?

There are arguments for playing Dixie and not playing Dixie - this was over the top offensive.

Oh, and the gentleman might want to go back and look at what the Southern states actually agreed to when we let them back in the Union. And they did apply to come back into the Union.

They all agreed to give up the trappings and symbols of the Confederacy - the flag & the anthem included.

For gentlemen who claim to be about honor, you'd think they could have kept their word.

Jul. 06 2013 04:34 PM
David Dominguez from Illinois

I was taken by your piece on DIXIE. I never gave thought to how divisive it may be to some. I was moved to tears at the end by Elvis singing his rendition of the song. Thank you for a great program.

Jul. 06 2013 03:59 PM

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