Old times they are not forgotten?

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A 2020 post in the Franklin Stove Blog (FSB) “Pride & Prejudice at Bama” included:

Lewis Bolling wrote an account of the celebration that took place after the University of Alabama football team’s 1926 victory at the Rose Bowl. He described how the Million Dollar Band marched down Greensboro Avenue. A speaker at the event bragged that the team was unbeatable when the band played “Dixie.”

The lyrics of Dixie (I Wish I Was in Dixie) contain:

I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times they are not forgotten;
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.
In Dixie Land where I was born,
Early on one frosty mornin,
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.

Then I wish I was in Dixie, hooray! hooray!
In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand to live and die in Dixie,
Away, away, away down South in Dixie,
Away, away, away down South in Dixie.

Sheila Gaffney wrote:

“Dixie” is a song with music and lyrics by the Northerner Daniel Decatur Emmett (included in the Artists, Movements and Ideas section of the Song of America database.) His song was first performed in a minstrel show in New York City in 1859, but it soon swept the South, and when Confederate President Jefferson Davis took the oath of office in 1861, the band played “Dixie.” Southern troops marched into battle singing the song, and it lifted the spirits of the pro-slavery South for all the years of the war. The composer, who supported the Union, is reported to have said, “If I had known to what use they were going to put my song, I’ll be damned if I’d have written it.”

The Crimson White‘s Raelee Sents wrote about an attempt by University students and faculty to remove the word “Dixie” from “Yea Alabama” fight song. Sents reported:

The Delete Dixie Initiative, a new campus coalition of students and faculty working to remove the word ‘Dixie’ from ‘Yea Alabama,’ unveiled their new website on Thursday.

Lyrics to to Yea Alabama proclaim that the Alabama team is “Dixie’s football pride.”

Al.com‘s Ben Flanagan wrote: “

Official campus organizations who endorse the initiative include the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) and Social Work Association for Cultural Awareness (SWACA).

It is unknown just how many players for the Crimson Tide are actually aware that their fight song refers to a Confederate anthem that extols the virtues of being in the “land of cotton.”

As recounted in a FSB post, Head Football Coach Nick Saban led “a march of Alabama athletes on August 31st, 2020 that put an exclamation mark on his previous statements on racial equality and justice. The March event was in response to a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin having shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back on August 23rd. Blake’s shooting inspired protests throughout the country that were similar to those that occurred after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, 2020.”

It would be reasonable to assume that many players would welcome removing the word “Dixie” from the fight song.

The website for the Delete Dixie Initiative asks “How do we want to be remembered?”:

Throughout American history, the term “Dixie” has been used in a direct or indirect reference to the Confederacy and the institution of slavery. One of the most well-known uses of the term comes from the 1859 song, “Dixie”. The song was first performed by a minstrel group, a group of white performers dressed in blackface. The performance was intended to represent a freed Black slave longing to return to the plantation of his birth. Soon after, the song became wildly popular in the south and was used as a Confederate war song. In fact, after Jefferson Davis took his oath of office to serve as the president of the Confederacy, the band played “Dixie”. The term “dixie” grew in popularity between the 1860s-1900s, often used in tandem with the Confederate flag, Ku Klux Klan groups, and other racially insensitive iconography. This was only the beginning. 

It is because of these ties-to the Confederacy, to racial subjugation, to a time of slavery and racial violence-that we must make a change. The University of Alabama considers itself the place where legends are made. We must now decide the kind of legend we hope to leave behind. We are not the pride of “dixie”, or of the “Old South”, but instead, the pride of the state of Alabama.

The site contains a moving video that explains the initiative’s objectives.

At one point in time during a yearly event at the Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University a large Confederate national flag covered the front of its house on campus. A 2010 story by the Associated Press reporter Jay Reeves reported that the wearing Confederate uniforms to “Old South” parties and parades was banned by the The Virginia-based Kappa Alpha Order.

The Yea Alabama fight song is just another reminder of the University of Alabama’s lamentable past. The names of many buildings on campus that bore the names of notoriously racist figures have been changed. WVUA‘s Keli Stiglich covered the renaming of Graves Hall. Former Governor Bibb Graves had been elected with the help of the Ku Klux Klan in his first successful gubernatorial bid in 1926. The building was renamed Autherine Lucy Hall. Hall was the first black student on campus.

While the Delete Dixie Initiative wants the Yea Alabama fight song changed, for some reason, it has no objections to the hokey, country song “Dixieland Delight” being featured at Alabama games, where cheerleaders have mimicked a cowboy whirling a rope and the team’s mascot Big Al has led a frenzied student crowd during a pulsating light show.

Any mention of Dixie — the “land of cotton”– should be considered an affront to contemporary moral values and an insult to both black and white athletes. But only so much progress can be expected at the University of Alabama.

After all, Home Sweet Alabama is a staple tune that is played at Alabama sports events. The song was written in response to Neil Young‘s 1970 song “Southern Man.” The song was about Lily Belle, who had golden brown hair and a black boyfriend. The song lyrics were:

Southern man, better keep your head
Don’t forget what your good book said
Southern change gonna come at last
Now your crosses are burning fast
Southern man

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” lyrics are:

I miss Alabamy once again and I think it’s a sin, yes

Well I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well I heard ol’ Neil put her down
Well I hope Neil Young will remember
A southern man don’t need him around anyhow

Maybe, at the University of Alabama, those crosses aren’t burning fast enough?


2 thoughts on “Old times they are not forgotten?

  1. Students responded to the Crimson White article about the Delete Dixie Initiative. I somehow think that many of them are oblivious to the history of the South. One person seemed to have some awareness.

    CJ Byrd: “It’s calling out racist terms in this school that is so normalized. And I think it sets a good precedent,” Byrd said. “Of course, there’s going to be backlash for a movement like this, because the term Dixie is so normalized here, but the term’s racist history cannot be ignored.”

  2. The Crimson White published a letter to the editor by one of its former editors Terry Johnson:

    “Let’s get real — ‘Dixie’ was and is associated with the Confederacy, the civil war, etc. But it also defines a geographic region of the USA. When ‘Yea Alabama’ was composed in the mid-1920s the national football championship was generally passed around Ivy League and some very large Midwest and West Coast universities.

    “Fortunately, decades ago the copyright to ‘Yea Alabama’ was granted to The University of Alabama. Therefore this issue can legally be dealt with by the University (none of this ‘we’re not able to change the words’ BS).

    “To be the best football team in the Southeastern U.S. was a big deal — a century ago. Yet our winning record — not to speak of the two best coaches in collegiate football history — demonstrates the Crimson Tide is a hell of a lot more than just the ‘pride’ of a handful of states in the Southeast.

    “Why don’t we look at this positively — a ‘slight’ update of the wording if you will. Because the fact is we are now ‘AMERICA’S football pride, the Crimson Tide!'”

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