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Former Vicksburg Dixie Darling supports university in changing group’s name

It had been the tradition of the University of Southern Mississippi’s precision dance team that attracted a former Vicksburg resident to try out for the team.

For three years, Rachel Ross was a member of the Dixie Darlings, which was one of the first precision dance teams in America.

Created in 1954 to perform with the Southern Miss band, the group became famous by performing at nationally televised football games and parades.

Initially called the Dixie Maids during the first week of the group’s practice, founder Dr. Raymond Mannoni, the school’s band director at the time, decided he didn’t like the name. After several suggestions, Dixie Darlings was chosen.

Now, more than six decades later, the group will take on another name according to an announcement made by the university.

Critics have said the nickname Dixie, which was a reference to the former Confederacy, is racially insensitive.

Ross, who was a member of the team from 2007 through 2009, and is now a theme park performer at both Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., said she agrees. A name change for the dance group is a positive move.

“I think it is really cool the university is opening a conversation and hearing viewpoints that have not been thought of before,” she said. “I learned the tradition of the Dixie Darlings when I became a member, and the longstanding tradition was one of the things that attracted me to the team. So it was really cool to be part of that legacy, however, I think it is also important to hear what our fellow team members are saying and what the community is saying, and I think it is important to normalize changing your opinions when presented with new information.”

Before the name of the dance group is changed, the school plans to hire a diversity officer to aid with the decision.

The Dixie Darlings, known for their kick line, perform during pre-game shows, halftime shows, at pep rallies and on the sidelines during the football season. The group is now comprised of 40 members.

In addition to the name change for the Dixie Darlings, the song the dancers emerge onto the field with, “Are You From Dixie,” will be changed.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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