Most Americans have heard the song about Dixieland. And in the history books, we’re taught about the Mason and Dixon’s Line, a survey boundary line that was used to designate free states from slave states. So, it’s easy to see how people assume that Dixieland is somehow related. But there is another story and it is one far removed from the South, in Manhattan no less. The story goes that in the early 1800’s, a man named Dixie had a plantation on Manhattan Island. He had many slaves. When slavery was outlawed in the Northern United States, Dixie sold them into slavery to Southern plantations. The Manhattan Dixie story has him treating his slaves so well, they longed to return to his “paradise,” Dixie’s land. Slavery was not paradise. Occasionally, white “masters” treated their slaves well but my research shows that by and large, American plantation owners were unkind (that’s putting it mildly) to their slaves. Yet even in captivity, people by nature will find things to appreciate.
Life is beautiful. Especially when you’re free. In the last half of the twentieth century, African Americans returned to the South in great numbers. Not because it was paradise but because they had history there. And maybe they wanted to enjoy some of the fruits of their labor. After all, those beautiful plantations were built upon their backs.
Suellen Ocean is the author of the Civil War Era romance, Rose Thorn. Available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X1GN58T