The Anthemic Allure Of 'Dixie,' An Enduring Confederate Monument

Oct 25, 2017

The 2nd South Carolina String Band in July, onstage in the main tent of the annual reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Bilal Qureshi for NPR
This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at

When my Pakistani immigrant parents chose Richmond, Va. as our American hometown, they didn't realize the city had a pre-existing condition: nostalgia for the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. Growing up, the ghosts of the Old South were everywhere — rebel flags waving from pickup trucks, monuments along the city's main avenue. More than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, the city is still coming to terms with its past, and an inextinguishable part of that past is the song "Dixie."

O, I wish I was in the land of cotton
Old times there are not forgotten
Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land

" 'Dixie' is born nostalgic. If you think about what the lyrics say, it's something that's already been lost," Civil War historian and fellow Richmonder Ed Ayers explains. "So it's sort of mingled with this political longing of losing the ill-fated rebellion against the United States."


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