While there are differing versions of the term’s origin, the first use of “redneck” appears to refer to the Scottish Covenanters of the 17th century, an independence movement created in response to England’s King Charles I, who took steps to bring Scotland’s Presbyterian church under his control. In 1638, Scottish Presbyterians signed the National Covenant, declaring their allegiance to their religion over the King of England. The Covenanters signed in blood, and to symbolize this oath, wore blood-red bandannas around their necks. Under English persecution, many Covenanters joined the Scottish migration to Ireland that began in the early 1600s.
Scottish Presbyterians lived in Ireland for several generations. However, the 1704 Test Act required that all government officials and civil servants pass a test of allegiance to the Anglican church. Within about a decade, thousands of Scots-Irish migrated to the American colonies. Landing mostly in New England, they made their way south in search of open land. Eventually, the Scots-Irish spread throughout what today are the Southern states and many Southerners today trace their ancestry back to these migrants who brought not only their culture of rugged individualism and religious devotion, but also the term “redneck.” (Read more.)