In a concession to activists who claim the song is offensive, the marching band at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) will no longer play the song “Dixie” as part of its routine at sporting events.
“Dixie” was first published in 1860, just prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War. Although written by Daniel Decatur Emmett, a Northerner, the song was immediately very popular in the South and served as an unofficial anthem for the Confederate States America. It has remained an iconic song of the South ever since.
And that’s just the problem, according to officials at Ole Miss, who say the song’s historical context mean it’s no longer welcome at games.
“We want everyone who steps foot on campus to feel welcome, and that they’re part of the Ole Miss family,” athletic director Ross Bjork told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “We felt we needed to move forward and do the right things. This is another step in that direction to make sure we’re welcoming to people.”
“Dixie” has been a fixture for the Ole Miss band for nearly 70 years. Despite its controversial history, the song itself has largely inoffensive lyrical content, singing in positive but general terms about “the land of cotton.”
The move is just the latest in a string of actions designed to downplay Confederate symbols and traditions at the school. In 1997, sticks were banned at football games in an effort to keep out the Confederate flag, and in 2003 the school the school removed sideline mascot Colonel Reb due to popular association between the mascot and the Old South. In 2009 the song “From Dixie with Love” was removed from the band routine because it often provoked chants of “The South will rise again!” from the crowd. Last year, the school even took down the Mississippi state flag because it includes the Confederate battle flag within it.