Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer, and Martie Maguire – FKA the Dixie Chicks – rolled out their new moniker on June 25. “We want to meet this moment,” the band now known as The Chicks said on their website. Along with this change, The Chicks released a video for the song “March March.” Made up of scenes taken from the recent Black Lives Matter protests, the Chicks also list off the names of Black men and women who were killed by the police — from Sandra Bland to Philando Castille to Thomas Allen Jr. to George Floyd.
The ditching of “Dixie” comes two weeks after Lady Antebellum recognized how their name was associated with slavery and rebranded as Lady A. Unfortunately, there was already a performer using the “Lady A” moniker — a Black female blues singer in Seattle who had used that name for 20 years — and it seems The Chicks ran into a similar issue. “A sincere and heartfelt thank you goes out to “The Chicks” of NZ for their gracious gesture in allowing us to share their name,” the band said in a statement to Variety. “We are honored to co-exist together in the world with these exceptionally talented sisters. Chicks Rock!” A quick search shows that these original Chicks were, per a fansite, sisters Judy and Sue Donaldson. In the 1960s, they had reportedly had a handful of hits in their native country.
Lady A dropped “antebellum” because the term is deeply associated with the pre-Civil War South. As for “Dixie,” History.com says that there are “at least three competing theories” as to how the name originated. The most straightforward explanation is the Mason-Dixon Line, a boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. Though initially meant to separate the two colonies, it became the information declaration of the line between Southern and Northern states. A second theory suggests it comes from Louisiana’s Citizens’ Bank of New Orleans, and how their ten-dollar notes included the word “dix” – French for “ten” – on one side. A third argues it comes from a Manhattan plantation owner named “Dix.”
“Regardless of its origin, for many Black people, it conjures a time and a place of bondage. If a ‘Dixie’-loving Southerner today insist the word merely represents a deep appreciation of their homeland, they’re probably white,” wrote Jeremy Helligar in a guest column for Variety. In the piece, the writer added, “Times have changed dramatically, and it’s hard to imagine many Black Southerners today tying their appreciation of their homeland to ‘Dixie.'”
The Chicks returned to music this year. Their new album, Gaslighter (their first album in 14 years), was initially scheduled for a May 1 release. The outbreak of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter uprising (in the wake of George Floyd’s death) saw the album get rescheduled to July 17.