26 November 2013

Who Wrote Dixie?

From the University of Illinois Press's website:
Who really wrote the classic song “Dixie”? A white musician, or an African American family of musicians and performers?
This book traces the lives of the Snowdens, an African American family of musicians and farmers living in rural Knox County, Ohio. Howard L. Sacks and Judith Rose Sacks examine the Snowdens' musical and social exchanges with rural whites from the 1850s through the early 1920s and provide a detailed exploration of the claim that the Snowden family taught the song "Dixie" to Dan Emmett--the white musician and blackface minstrel credited with writing the song. This edition features a new introduction in which the authors discuss the public response to this controversial claim, and present new information on the Snowdens' musical and social experiences.

"An intriguing and textured portrait of a black family in the nineteenth-century North. . . . Arguing that those who have searched for black influences on minstrelsy have exclusively and mistakenly focused on the South, the authors seek to demonstrate the closely intertwined traditions of black and white music above the Mason-Dixon line. . . . Not only has blackface minstrelsy exerted ‘a pervasive impact on American music' . . . it has also served as both symbol and metaphoric expression of the complexities of American racial identity."--Drew Gilpin Faust, New York Times
Yes, the book has been out a while, but some historians are apparently unaware of this side of the story. I actually have the book in my library somewhere, though I've only skimmed it. 

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