M.E. Garrison's Map of Dixie published in 1909. This version of Dixie only includes states within the Southeast, omitting traditionally included states such as Texas or Virginia.

Dixie, also known as Dixieland or Dixie's Land, is a nickname for all or part of the Southern United States. While there is no official definition of this region (and the included areas have shifted over the years), or the extent of the area it covers, most definitions include the U.S. states below the Mason–Dixon line that seceded and comprised the Confederate States of America, almost always including the Deep South.[1] The term became popularized throughout the United States by songs that nostalgically referred to the American South.


See also: Culture of the Southern United States

Geographically, Dixie usually means the cultural region of the Southern states. However, definitions of Dixie vary greatly. Dixie may include only the Deep South (Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, etc.) or the states that seceded during the American Civil War.

  1. South Carolina
  2. Mississippi
  3. Florida
  4. Alabama
  5. Georgia (U.S. State)
  6. Louisiana
  7. Texas
  8. Virginia
  9. Arkansas
  10. Tennessee
  11. North Carolina
  12. Kentucky

Although Maryland isn't often considered part of Dixie today,[2][3] it is below the Mason–Dixon line. If the origin of the term Dixie is accepted as referring to the region south and west of that line (which excludes Delaware despite it having been a slave state in 1861), Maryland lies within Dixie. It can be argued that Maryland was part of Dixie before the Civil War, especially culturally.[4] In this sense, it would remain so into the 1970s, until an influx of people from the Northeast made the state and its culture significantly less Southern (especially Baltimore and the suburbs of Washington, D.C.).[3] However, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore still remain culturally Southern and share many traits associated with Dixie.[5]

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

As for the nation's capital itself: "Whether Washington should be defined as a Southern city has been a debate since the Civil War, when it was the seat of the Northern government but a hotbed of rebel sympathy," the Washington Post wrote in 2011. "The Washington area's 'Southernness' has fallen into steep decline, part of a trend away from strongly held regional identities. In the 150th anniversary year of the start of the Civil War, the region at the heart of the conflict has little left of its historic bond with Dixie."[6] President Kennedy complained about the worst aspects of Washington's Northern and Southern influence, calling Washington, DC "a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm."[7]

The Florida Big Bend includes a Dixie County. Certain parts of Oklahoma and Missouri that are considered more culturally Southern than the rest of these two states, and have been nicknamed Little Dixie (Oklahoma) and Little Dixie (Missouri).

The location and boundaries of Dixie have become increasingly subjective and mercurial.[8] Today, Dixie is most often associated with parts of the Southern United States where traditions and legacies of the Confederate era and the Antebellum South live most strongly.[2] The concept of Dixie as the location of a certain set of cultural assumptions, mindsets, and traditions was explored in the book The Nine Nations of North America (1981).[9]

Origin of the name

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

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origin of this nickname remains obscure. The most common theories, according to A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles (1951) by Mitford M. Mathews include the following:

Uses of the term

C.D. Blake's I'se Gwine Back To Dixie and other similar songs included the usage of Dixie nostalgically.

During the Jazz Age and the American folk music revival, "Dixie" was used widely in popular music such as "Swanee", "Are You From Dixie?", "Is It True What They Say About Dixie?" and, more contemporaneously, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Dixieland Delight". The first popular song to contain "Dixie" in its name was "I Wish I Was In Dixie", composed in 1859 and incorporated as an unofficial anthem of the Confederate States of America.[16]

In terms of self-identification and appeal, the popularity of the word Dixie is declining. A 1976 study revealed that in an area of the South covering about 350,000 square miles (all of Mississippi and Alabama; almost all of Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina; and around half of Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Florida) the term reached 25% of the popularity of the term American in names of commercial business entities.[17] A 1999 analysis found that between 1976 and 1999, in 19% of U.S. cities sampled, there was an increase of relative use of Dixie; in 48% of cities sampled, there was a decline; and no change was recorded in 32% of cities.[18] A 2010 study found that in the course of 40 years, the area in question shrank to just 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2), to the area where Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida meet.[19] In 1976, at about 600,000 square miles (1,600,000 km2)[a]

Southern United States by Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts

Sociologists Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts surveyed all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the use of the words "Dixie" and "Southern" in business names. Unlike the survey conducted by John Shelton Reed, who concentrated on cities, Cooper & Knotts surveyed entire states using modern technology rather than the physical search of telephone books that were available to Reed. They excluded the chain Winn-Dixie from the study. Their data, within these parameters, resulted in a 13-state region which they divided into three tiers, from high to low scores. In the first tier were Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The second tier was Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The third tier was Florida, Oklahoma, Virginia, and West Virginia.[20]

In 1965, the Washington Redskins football team (now the Washington Commanders) modified the team song, removing the word "Dixie" and a musical quotation from the song Dixie after a Black fan wrote to the owner of the team, describing the racial unrest that "Dixie" caused and asking for it to be stopped.[21]

In the 21st century, several groups or organizations removed "Dixie" due to its association with the Confederacy. They included Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede,[22] the music group Dixie Chicks,[23] and the Dixie Classic Fair. The board of trustees at Dixie State University in Utah voted unanimously in December 2020 to change the name of the institution, with the Utah Legislature putting "Utah Tech University" into effect in 2022 to distance the university from the "Dixie" term.[24][25]

See also


  1. ^ from eastern Texas and Oklahoma to southern Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia


  1. ^ a b "Dixie". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Ottenhoff, Patrick (January 28, 2011). "Where Does the South Begin?". The Atlantic.
  3. ^ a b Rasmussen, Frederick (March 28, 2010). "Are we Northern? Southern? Yes". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on May 11, 2018. Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  4. ^ In early 1861, Maryland was walking a tightrope between the Union and the Confederacy. In addition to being physically between the two sides, Maryland depended equally on the North and the South for its economy. Although Maryland had always leaned toward the south culturally, sympathies in the state were as much pro-Union as they were pro-Confederate. Reflecting that division and the feeling of many Marylanders that they just wanted to be left alone, the state government would not declare for either side. "The General Assembly Moves to Frederick, 1861". Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  5. ^ So Where is the Border? It begins with an imaginary line from Cambridge, Md. to Fredericksburg, Va., follows the Rappahannock River up into the Piedmont, across the Baptist Line in West Virginia, along the Ohio River, and along the Baptist Line in southern Illinois.Ottenhoff, Patrick (January 28, 2011). "Where Does the South Begin?". The Atlantic.
  6. ^ Hendrix, Steve (January 15, 2011). "D.C. area and Dixie drifting farther and farther apart". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  7. ^ "Is Washington Too Southern? Too Northern?". The Washingtonian. March 18, 2016.
  8. ^ There is such a multitude of threads to the fabric called Dixie that official organizations draw boundaries enclosing anywhere from nine to seventeen states and call the region the South.Joel Garreau (1981). The Nine Nations of North America. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 132. ISBN 0-395-29124-0.
  9. ^ Garreau, Joel (1981). The Nine Nations of North America. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-29124-0.
  10. ^ John Mackenzie, "A brief history of the Mason–Dixon Line Archived 2018-07-17 at the Wayback Machine", APEC/CANR, University of Delaware; accessed 2017-01-05.
  11. ^ Zimmer, Ben (June 26, 2020). "What 'Dixie' Really Means". The Atlantic. Retrieved July 3, 2020. Based on all of these new findings, we can reconstruct a plausible, if circuitous, scenario for the real birth of Dixie. New York City children took the name of the Mason-Dixon line and converted it into a game involving their own demarcation between North and South, with Dixon given the familiar nickname of Dixie. Then [Dan] Emmett [the composer of the song Dixie], who was living in New York at the time that he wrote his minstrel songs, could have picked up on 'Dixie's Land' from the game. Emmett may very well have had other sources of inspiration, given that, as Wilton and others have observed, "Dixie" was also the name of a blackface character in a minstrel skit dating back to 1850. But the North-South delineation used by children at play currently stands as the likeliest source for Dixie.
  12. ^ "Dixie" Originated From Name "Dix" An Old Currency – New Orleans American May 29 1916, Vol. 2 No. 150, Page 3 Col. 1 Archived 2011-08-07 at the Wayback Machine Louisiana Works Progress Administration, Louisiana Digital Library
  13. ^ Ten Dollar Note Archived 2012-03-20 at the Wayback Machine George Francois Mugnier Collection, Louisiana Digital Library
  14. ^ Wilton, David (2008). Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends. Oxford University Press. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-1953-7557-2.
  15. ^ Campanella, Richard (2010). "Appendix A: Western River Commerce in the Early 1800s" (PDF). Lincoln in New Orleans: The 1828-1831 Flatboat Voyages and Their Place in History. University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press. p. 276, n. 99. ISBN 978-1-9357-5402-2.
  16. ^ "Dixie | History, Definition, Meaning, & Facts | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
  17. ^ John Shelton Reed, "The Heart of Dixie: An Essay in Folk Geography", [in:] "Social Forces" 54/4 (1976), pp. 925–939
  18. ^ Derek H. Alderman, Robert Maxwell Beavers, "Heart of Dixie Revisited: an Update on the Geography of Naming in the American South", [in:] "Southeastern Geographer" XXXlX/2 (1999), p. 196
  19. ^ Christopher A. Cooper, H. Gibbs Knotts, "Declining Dixie: Regional Identification in the Modern American South", [in:] "Social Forces" 88/3 (2010), pp. 1083–1101
  20. ^ Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts, Rethinking the Boundaries of the South. Southern Cultures, Volume 16, Number 4, Winter 2010, pp. 72–88
  21. ^ "Dixie and the Washington Redskins". YouTube. Intersection Films. August 24, 2017.
  22. ^ Freeman, Jon (January 11, 2018). "Dolly Parton's Civil War-Themed 'Dixie Stampede' Attraction to Change Name". Rolling Stone.
  23. ^ Shaffer, Claire (June 25, 2020). "Dixie Chicks Change Name to 'The Chicks,' Drop Protest Song". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  24. ^ Cortez, Marjorie (December 14, 2020). "Trustees vote to drop 'Dixie' from Dixie State University name". Deseret News. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  25. ^ "How much it will cost and what the new logos look like: Here's a peek at Dixie State's transition to Utah Tech University". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved June 1, 2022.

Further reading

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