Old South Debate Is Revived in the West: To Defenders, 'Dixie' Evokes Sense of Regional Heritage, Not Racial Insensitivity

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ST. GEORGE, Utah -- The Rebels Monument, a bronze statue of a mounted Confederate soldier grasping a tattered flag while assisting a wounded comrade, sits on the campus of Dixie State College in this southwestern Utah town. An American flag and a Utah flag fly high over the monument, but a third flagpole is empty. It once bore the flag of the Confederate States of America, the former school flag of Dixie State.

In this region, known as Utah's Dixie, the monument is a reminder of an ongoing dispute within the school and community between those who see Confederate icons as key to the area's pioneer identity and those who find such symbols offensive. The college, which for 12 years has been ridding itself of Confederate symbols, is at the center of the imbroglio. The latest debate has swirled around the college's former mascot, a Confederate soldier, which was removed from the campus in 2001 and replaced this semester with a red hawk.

Utah's Dixie seems incongruous in the West, but the name was coined by Mormon converts from the South, who just before the Civil War settled the area to cultivate cotton. "Little Dixies" are scattered across the country, retaining a strong Southern identity after being settled by migrating Southerners during the Civil War era, said William Ferris, senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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