The Great-Granddaddy of White Nationalism
This article examines the influence of the North Carolina novelist and filmmaker Thomas Dixon Jr. on twenty-first-century white nationalism and the discourse of white identity as employed by the current political Right. Dixon, an heir of Sir Walter Scott, whose romances gave white southerners a vocabulary for romanticizing their defeat in the Civil War, helped create a rhetoric of racism that survives to this day in various Fox News commentators, neo-Confederates, and others worried about immigrants “invading” America. Dixon’s depiction of Reconstruction as an attack on Anglo-Saxon hegemony inspired D. W. Griffiths to make his landmark silent film The Birth of a Nation, and was instrumental in the reboot of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915. Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, the darkest reaches of the alt-right Internet, and followers such as Dylann Roof, who murdered nine congregants at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, demonstrate that, a century on, the ideas Dixon voiced are not only still powerful but dangerous.