History of the Dixie School District's Name
The Old Dixie Schoolhouse Foundation, an independent 501(c)(3) organization, claims the school district was named after the Confederacy.
In 1972, the Dixie Schoolhouse Foundation submitted an application to the U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service to get the old Dixie Schoolhouse added to the National Registry of Historical Places.
Their application documents strongly suggest that the name “Dixie” was a direct reference to the nickname given to the Confederate States of America. In their application, they state, “Mrs. Leitz (Mrs. Frances Miller Leits, daughter of Bernard Miller and granddaughter of James Miller) also uncovered the origin of the school's name when she stated that her grandfather, not being a man to turn down a challenge, named the building on a dare. Marin County, in 1864, was hotly pro-Northern, and the fact that several "gentlemen" from the South helped construct the first schoolhouse prompted someone to dare James Miller to name the school "Dixie." He did. Thus Dixie opened in March of 1864.”
The area which now comprises the Dixie School District was a Democratic Pro-Confederate stronghold at the time of the naming of the district.
That James Miller chose the name “Dixie” as a reference to the Confederate States of America is further corroborated by an article in the Marin Journal from June 4, 1891 that states, “The precinct or district itself (current area that includes the Dixie School District) has always been a Democratic stronghold, at some of the elections the entire vote polled being Democratic. During wartimes the district was called Dixie by the Republicans in derision, and the name clung to it ever since.”
During the Civil War, the Democratic Party was pro-slavery. The Democratic Party supported racial segregation and worse after the Civil War. The Republican Party at that time was the party of Lincoln, and anti-slavery.
Lincoln won the 1860 and 1864 presidential elections as a Republican. The voters who lived in the precincts in and around the Dixie School District voted for the pro-slavery Democratic candidates. Breckinridge in 1860 and McLellan in 1864.
While we do not yet have evidence of James Miller’s party registration, William J. Miller, James’s eldest son, was a leader of the Democratic Party Committee in Marin. In 1869, William J. Miller was elected to the California assembly as a Democrat to represent the 10th district. Prior to Miller’s election, Assemblymember A.C. McAlister represented the district as a member of the Democratic Party.
In the 1860s, people knew that the Dixie School District was named after the Confederacy.
Even a month after the founding of the Dixie School District, people recognized the name “Dixie” was a direct reference to the pro-slavery south and that the name was “ominous.” In the December 11, 1863 edition of the Red Bluff Independent, the paper wrote the following in response to the establishment of the “Dixie School District”:
“It is supposed, by the ominous name, that the young ideas are here to be “trained how to shoot” you. The most surprising thing about this name is, that the inhabitants of such a district should ever desire the establishment of such a radical thing as a school. Probably the effects of association with civilized people in this State.”
What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.
— Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust Survivor