MOUNT VERNON — Was Dan Emmett a racist? Should his song, “Dixie’s Land,” be banished from public performances? Or is there another way of approaching the controversy? These and many other provocative questions will be addressed at a showing of the documentary film, “Dixie: The True Story of America’s Most Dangerous Song,” at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County on Tuesday, August 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the Library’s basement multipurpose room.
Library director John Chidester will facilitate a discussion following the showing of the film. He will also offer brief remarks about four books in the library’s collection that represent different views of the Dan Emmett story: “Daniel Decatur Emmett,” by H. Ogden Wintermute; “Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy,” by Hans Nathan; “The Great Dan Emmett: Burnt-Cork Artist Extraordinaire,” by Lorle Porter; and “Way Up North in Dixie: A Black Family’s Claim to the Confederate Anthem,” by Howard Sacks and Judith Sacks.
The documentary film, “Dixie: The True Story of America’s Most Dangerous Song,” is an 85-minute exploration of the song’s origins in the era of black face minstrelsy, its transformation into the unofficial anthem of the Confederacy, and its troubled postwar journey into social, political and racial upheaval.
“Dixie” was adopted by segregationists during the civil rights era as an emblem of entrenched Jim Crow racism, and it has more recently been excluded from public performances at many colleges and universities. It has also been reinterpreted and redefined by younger artists, both black and white, adding a new dimension to the controversy.
The documentary includes performances by several groups and individuals, as well as interviews with a number of spokespersons on all sides of the issue, among them Howard Sacks, emeritus professor of sociology at Kenyon College and co-author of “Way Up North in Dixie.”
The program is free and open to the general public.