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Selected Poetry of Daniel Decatur Emmett (1815-1904)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

I wish I was in de land ob cotton,
Old times dar am not forgotten;
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land!
        (Dixie's Land, 1-3)
  1. Dixie's Land


Notes on Life and Works

Daniel Decatur Emmett was born in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, on October 29, 1815. After working in newspaper offices, and serving in the army, Emmett played in circus bands. Emmett organized the first black minstrel company, the Virginia Minstrels, in New York in 1843; he played the violin, and his band was a great success. From 1857 to 1865 he worked with the Bryant Minstrels, during which time he wrote "Dixie's Land" and other "walk-arounds," written in an artificial black dialect. His first wife Catharine Rives suggested the title for the song "Dixie's Land" that became the anthem of the Confederate States after a performance in New Orleans in the spring of 1861. Following the Civil War Emmett moved to Chicago until 1888, when he retired to his birthplace. Only in 1895 did an old friend, Al. G. Field, a minstrel manager, find him and identify him to the world as the composer of the song and its tune. Emmett enjoyed popularity during a tour in 1895-96 and, with some legal representation, recovered copyright for the song and finally earned income from it. Remarried in 1879 to Mary Louise Bird after Catharine's death in 1875, Emmett himself died on June 28, 1904. His friend Field arranged for Emmett to lie in state at the Mt. Vernon Elks' lodge, and the funeral service was held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The best edition of the poet's works, and the best biography, is Charles Burleigh Galbreath's Daniel Decatur Emmett (Columbus, Ohio: Fred J. Heer, 1904).

Biographical information

Given name: Daniel Decatur
Family name: Emmett
Birth date: 29 October 1815
Death date: 28 June 1904
Nationality: American
Buried at: Mt. Vernon