Century-old New Orleans-based craft brewer Dixie Brewery has announced to change its name to one which is not related to the Confederacy and burdened with the connotation of slavery. A new name has not yet been selected as the company will seek input from “community stakeholders” to choose a name for the brewery and its products that “best represents our culture and community.”
The brewery was founded in 1907 and changed ownership several times over the following century. It derives its name supposedly from the Mason-Dixon line, which was the border between the free (Northern) states and the slave (Southern) states. Dixie, also known as Dixieland, is today a nickname for the Southern United States, especially those states that composed the Confederate States of America.
“We recognize, however, that our nation and community are currently engaged in critical conversations about racism and systemic social issues that have caused immeasurable pain and oppression of our Black and brown communities,” Gayle Benson, owner of the brewery said. “As New Orleans and our country continue to evolve we find it necessary to reflect on the role our brewery can play in making our home more united, strong and resilient for future generations.”
Together with Dixie Beer, a band formerly known as the Dixie Chicks has also changed its name. Yesterday, the Dixie Chicks announced that they have excised the “Dixie” from their band name, becoming simply The Chicks.
Other brands which display a romanticized image of the slavery-era South before the Civil War have also been rechristened.
These include Aunt Jenima syrup, which was according to a professor of the Africana Studies at Cornell University “an outgrowth of Old South plantation nostalgia and romance”; and Uncle Ben’s rice, which uses the image of an elderly Black man. Southerners once used “uncle”, “aunt” and “boy” to refer to Black people because they refused to call them “Mr.” or “Mrs.” Eskimo Pie, a chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream bar was also renamed because the product made fun of another ethnic minority.
Also outside the US, discussion about discriminating brand names has started. In Austria, the more than 200 year-old name and symbol of Mohrenbrauerei (Blackamoor Brewery) has recently attracted a lot of attention. The owners were forced to write an open letter in which they promised to “check in the next few months whether and how we will further develop our brand presence within the scope of our possibilities” (inside.beer, 24.6.2020).
The current Dixie brewery is in fact a reincarnation of the old brewery which was totally destroyed after Hurricane Katrina hit the coastline of Louisiana and devastated the city of New Orleans in 2005.
In 2017Gayle Benson and her late husband Tom Benson owners of the local professional American football and basketball teams New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans purchased a majority share in the Dixie Brewery. They invested in a new 85,000 square foot facility with a capacity to brew and package nearly 100,000 barrels annually.
Following a 14-year local production hiatus, the brewery opened its doors in January but had to close its taproom like many others soon again after the coronavirus outbreak. Last month onsite retail operation were resumed.