Skip PBS navigation bar, and jump to content.
Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS


About the Film

Forty Acres and a Mule
Plantations in Ruins
Black Legislators
Northerners in the South
Access to Learning
Slave to Sharecropper
The Negro Question
In God We Trust
White Men Unite
State by State

Teacher's Guide

  spacer above content
Plantations in Ruins: Primary Sources

Back to section

  A Drama of Fierce Revenge | All Have Suffered


 
 

A Drama of Fierce Revenge

Southern writer Thomas Dixon Jr. expressed his disdain for Reconstruction in this introduction to his 1905 novel, The Clansman. At the time of the Civil War, many whites, North and South, believed that black people could not be equal to whites, and the notion that black men deserved the vote was not widely accepted.

Racial equality was unimaginable to Southern white aristocrats who had owned slaves for generations, and to poor whites who feared having to compete with freed slaves for work. Developing a legend of the war, white Southerners like Dixon cast themselves as genteel victims of Northern aggression who bravely resisted, saving their way of life.

Racist sentiments like Dixon's persisted, and fueled the Ku Klux Klan's resurgence in the 1920s.

The Clansman develops the true story of the "Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy," which overturned the Reconstruction regime.

The organisation was governed by the Grand Wizard Commander-in-Chief, who lived at Memphis, Tennessee. The Grand Dragon commanded a State, the Grand Titan a Congressional District, the Grand Giant a County, and the Grand Cyclops a Township Den. The twelve volumes of Government reports on the famous Klan refer chiefly to events which occurred after 1870, the date of its dissolution.

The chaos of blind passion that followed Lincoln's assassination is inconceivable to-day. The Revolution it produced in our Government, and the bold attempt of Thaddeus Stevens to Africanise ten great states of the American Union, read now like tales from The Arabian Nights.

I have sought to preserve in this romance both the letter and the spirit of this remarkable period. The men who enact the drama of fierce revenge into which I have woven a double love-story are historical figures. I have merely changed their names without taking a liberty with any essential historic fact.

In the darkest hour of the life of the South, when her wounded people lay helpless amid rags and ashes under the beak and talon of the Vulture, suddenly from the mists of the mountains appeared a white cloud the size of a man's hand. It grew until its mantle of mystery enfolded the stricken earth and sky. An "Invisible Empire" had risen from the field of Death and challenged the Visible to mortal combat.

How the young South, led by the reincarnated souls of the Clansmen of Old Scotland, went forth under this cover and against overwhelming odds, daring exile, imprisonment, and a felon's death, and saved the life of a people, forms one of the most dramatic chapters in the history of the Aryan race.

Thomas Dixon Jr.
Dixondale, Virginia
December 14, 1904

Excerpt from Thomas Dixon Jr., The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan . New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1905.

  'My sweet sister'  
page created on 12.19.03
Site Navigation

Reconstruction: The Second Civil War
About the Film | Forty Acres and a Mule | Plantations in Ruins | Black Legislators
Northerners in the South | Access to Learning | Slave to Sharecropper | The Negro Question
In God We Trust | White Men Unite | State by State | Teacher's Guide

American Experience | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe | Web Credits

© New content 1997-2004 PBS Online / WGBH



Reconstruction: The Second Civil War American Experience

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: