Was the Confederate anthem “Dixie” really written by Dan Emmett? Howard and Judy Sacks told the story of the Snowdens, an African American family of musicians and farmers from rural Knox County, Ohio. They examined the Snowdens’ musical and social exchanges with rural whites from the 1850s through the early 1920s and provided a detailed exploration of the claim that the Snowden family taught the song “Dixie” to Dan Emmett–the white musician and blackface minstrel credited with writing the song.
Howard Sacks has been published in American Quarterly, American Music, Theatre Survey, the Journal of American Folklore, Contemporary Sociology, Social Forces, Symbolic Interaction, the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Quarterly, as well as numerous magazines and newspapers. Their book, Way Up North in Dixie: A Black Family’s Claim to the Confederate Anthem (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003 ), was hailed in the Nation as “the fullest, most finely detailed account of the musical life of a nineteenth-century African American family anywhere in the United States,” and received a 1994 Ohioana Book Award. Sacks has served on panels of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as on the board of directors of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and consults regularly with organizations and communities on arts and cultural activities.
Since 1975, Howard and Judy Sacks have directed the Gambier Folk Festival for more than 15 years and were deeply involved with the National Folk Festival for several years. Their ongoing educational and community projects about traditional foodways are models for small town and agrarian cultures.