My book is about my work toward structural change in agriculture. We founded this country, I say we collectively, to be governed by “We the People.” That looked good on paper, but of course we know that Jefferson didn’t really mean everybody. What we’ve had since 1776 is a grand experiment in making a representative democracy work.
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.