Why is Dixie College Dixie?

Due to the ugly history of its name, It is quite offensive to be called a Dixie or even associated with the name, especially when it is said with a sneer on the face. Ironically, a State University in Utah goes by the name ‘Dixie College,’ leaving one to wonder why in God’s name a college will be associated with such a name. Why is Dixie College Dixie?

Why is Dixie College Dixie?

While the word Dixie means different things to different people, it is most commonly associated with the slave-owning American South, and therefore, seen as very offensive as it evokes sad memories of the ugly past. Dixie is rumored to be the south of the Dixon line where slavery was a legal action, so it’s not in any way a good name on its own.

With all the negativities clouding the name, why would a state college be called Dixie?

Dixie College has gone by the name ‘Dixie’ as early as the onset of the 20th century. It got the name from the community members who used ‘Dixie’ to refer to the Southern part of the area where the school is located.

After its inception around 1911, the college went by the name ‘St. George Stake Academy’ with only three years of high school. Later on, the fourth year was added, including teachers’ preparation. As it recorded progress in the Utah area, college courses were added to the list.

With all the progress and growth it experienced in its early years and the fact that people associated the community with Dixie, the authorities changed its name from ‘St. George Stake Academy’ to ‘Dixie Normal College’ to communicate the teacher’s program. The reason for their choice of the otherwise controversial name ‘Dixie’ was that the name was already associated with the area, and the school was a popular one there.

As it grew to accommodate more college programs, the name evolved from ‘Dixie Normal College’ to ‘Dixie Junior College’ in 1923 as it was no longer just for teachers as the presence of the word ‘Normal’ implied.

It went by that name till the early 1970s when it was changed again to ‘Dixie College’, and yet again to ‘Dixie state College of Utua’ in 2000, and finally to ‘Dixie State University’ in 2013.

After much litigation and displeasure arising from its name due to the ugly history behind the word, Dixie State University decided late last year to change its name to something that ‘represents the education they give in the school.’

The bill was passed by the Legislature of Utah State on the 10th of November, 2021, and a new name, ‘Utah Tech University’ was chosen to replace it. This new name would be effective from the 1st of July, 2022.

But How did Dixie Come to be an Offensive Word?

The word was originally used to mean the $10 bill issued by Citizen State Bank of New Orleans as one of its earliest currencies. Because the citizens were mostly French speakers, the notes had the word ‘Dix’, which is the French word for ‘ten’ on them.

With time, the banknotes became widespread, and people began referring to its originating place (Louisiana and gradually the entire south) as ‘the land of Dix,’ which was later compressed to ‘Dixie-land.’

The name gained popularity with the popular song “Dixie,” which was composed by Emmett in 1859. Emmett’s song Dixie had a similar tone to one of the marching songs of the Confederate army, so it was often considered the Confederate anthem.

Another belief of the origin of the word is that the term refers to the Mason-Dixon Line, which is the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania. In the period before the Civil War, the demarcation between these lands was considered, together with the Ohio River, to be the dividing line between the slave states on the south and the free states on the north of the boundary.

Some kids in New York City incorporated the name of the Mason-Dixon boundary into a game they played. Their game involved the demarcation between the North and South, with Dixon, changed to the sweeter sounding Dixie. People say that this was where Emmett picked the word from and worked it into his song.

Those children are said to have lived in the North and must have inspired another songwriter from the North to create an idealized illusion of a South that existed before the American Civil War and had been characterized by slavery.

Emmet’s song further propelled this idea and linked the word to the Confederacy and inevitable to slavery, so much so that the word began to be associated with slavery.


But Dixie College has nothing to do with the slavery of those painful times and will therefore not be associated with it from the 1st of July when its name officially becomes ‘Utah Tech University.’