New film analyzes origins of “Dixie” and its relationship with the South

The history of the song “Dixie” is the subject of an Intersection Films production bearing the same name by Ryan Kelley and Trent Reeves.

It’s a documentation of the origins of the song, its relation to the South, and the people who’ve preserved it in some form or fashion throughout each passing generation.

It’s also a look into how “Dixie” became a rallying cry for those opposed to the desegregating times of the late 1950s and 1960s and the connection it began to have with that of the Confederate flag.

Was “Dixie” in fact written by Dan Emmett of Mount Vernon, Ohio, who went on to pioneer the blackface minstrel shows of the mid-1800s? Or was it a nearby family of former slaves – Ben and Lou Snowden – who taught him the tune that he would eventually make famous?

DIXIE 1280×720 from Intersection Films on Vimeo.

While the story unfolds with informative interviews and vintage footage, we’re reintroduced to moments in time when the song went hand-in-hand with politics and sports while creating discourse at nearly every turn.

There’s mention of the 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln and his affection for the song. There’s a look at the long history between the song and Ole Miss, and the tensions that lead into a college football game between Texas and Arkansas with United States President Richard Nixon in attendance. There’s also an exploration of the connection between the song and the Washington Redskins and how that relationship eventually came to pass.

Most poignant, though, is the story of singer-songwriter Mickey Newbury, who in 1970 performed a somber medley entitled “An American Trilogy,” featuring three separate songs that served as the unofficial soundtracks of three different groups that included people of the Confederate states (“Dixie”), the Union states (“Battle Hymn of the Republic”) and African-American slaves (“All My Sorrows”).

Although much of the film carries on with the kind of narration seemingly fit for a PBS-style classroom screening, the collection of footage is pieced together quite nicely and helps keep your attention throughout the entirety of this history lesson.

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