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David Voelker's List: Race, Culture, and Politics in the "New South"

    • From 1868 through the early 1870s the Ku Klux Klan functioned as a loosely organized group of political and social terrorists.  The Klan's goals included political defeat of the Republican Party and the maintenance of absolute white supremacy in response  to newly gained civil and political rights by southern blacks after the Civil War. They were more successful in achieving  their political goals than they were with their social goals during the Reconstruction era.
    • The political terrorism was effective. While Republican gubernatorial candidate Rufus B. Bullock carried the state in April  1868 elections, by November Democratic presidential candidate Horatio Seymour was in the lead. In some counties the contrast  was incredible. In John Reed's Oglethorpe County, 1,144 people had voted Republican in April, while only 116 dared to vote  Republican in November when Reed's armed Klansmen surrounded the polls. In Columbia County armed Klansmen not only intimidated voters but even cowed federal soldiers sent to guard the polling place. Not surprisingly,  while 1,222 votes had been cast in Columbia County for Republican governor Rufus Bullock in April, only one vote was cast for Republican presidential candidate Ulysses Grant in November 1868. Similar political  terrorism and control of the polling places help account for Georgia's quick "redemption" and return to conservative white  Democratic control by late 1871.
      • This example focuses on one county to show how white supremacists used terrorism to defeat Republicans in the South.

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    • The entry from the *New Georgia Encyclopedia* explains how the original Klan used violence and terror to reassert white political power in the South during Reconstruction. - David Voelker on 2008-01-27
    • The argument of the Lost Cause insists that the South fought nobly and against all odds not to preserve slavery but entirely  for other reasons, such as the rights of states to govern themselves, and that southerners were forced to defend themselves  against Northern aggression. When the idea of a Southern nation was defeated on the battlefield, the vision of a separate  Southern people, with a distinct and noble cultural character, remained.
    • The main components of the Lost Cause myth, repeated in writings, sermons, lectures,  and speeches by scores of postwar southern figures, are easily identified. First, the prewar South—the Old South—was a place  of nobility and chivalry. (There is no better capsule description of the Old South of the Lost Cause myth than the opening  words of the movie version of Gone With the Wind, with its elegiac reference to the now-vanished pretty world "of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields," where gallantry "took its  last bow.")
      • *Gone with the Wind* is a great example, but so too is the earlier film *Birth of a Nation*.

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    • This page from the *New Georgia Encyclopedia* explains the "religion" of the "Lost Cause," which white Southerners used to defend their honor after the Civil War. - David Voelker on 2008-01-27
    • The original Klan of Reconstruction was suppressed by the federal government in the early 1870s, but in following decades its violent activities were increasingly  rationalized and even romanticized, most notably in Thomas Dixon's popular novels, The Leopard's Spots (1902) and The Clansman (1905).
    • The         
      Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
      William J. Simmons
      popularity of The Birth of a Nation, and specifically its appearance in Atlanta in December 1915, proved the major impetus for the reemergence of the Klan.

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    • This page from the *New Georgia Encyclopedia* explains the history of the Ku Klux Klan that was revived in 1915, in part under the influence of *The Birth of a Nation*, a film released that year (and the first full-length feature film). - David Voelker on 2008-01-27
    • Thomas Dixon reveled in its triumph.   "The real purpose of my film," he confessed   gleefully, "was to revolutionize Northern audiences   that would transform every man into a Southern partisan   for life."
      • Dixon wrote *The Clansman*--the novel on which the film was based.

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    • Griffith later regretted the racial prejudice that his film promoted. He tried to make amends by making INTOLERANCE, a film attacking race prejudice. But INTOLERANCE never approached the success of THE BIRTH OF A NATION.
    • This page offers a scathing critique of the film, along with some historical context of the controversy and conflict surrounding the film's release. - David Voelker on 2008-01-29
    • This page includes some important information about *Birth of a Nation*, including brief descriptions of riots caused by the film. Unfortunately, its use of the present tense is atrocious. - David Voelker on 2008-01-27
    • This site richly documents the "Jim Crow" regime of racial segregation and discrimination that dominated the American South from the 1890s until the 1960s. See especially the section titled "What was Jim Crow." - David Voelker on 2008-01-27
    • This page includes a link (near the top) to a sample "literacy test" that was used to deny African Americans the right to vote in Alabama. - David Voelker on 2008-01-27
    • I can't really recommend that anyone look at lynching photographs, but this online exhibit is sensitively and sensibly done, and it provides historical information for over 100 lynching photographs and postcards. The "movie" available on the site is actually a slideshow with a voiceover, and it is worth watching. Be forewarned that the images on this site are gruesome and disturbing, but they are also important artifacts of a historical reality. - David Voelker on 2008-01-30
    • This Library of Congress exhibit documents the anti-lynching movement sponsored by the NAACP and led up by Ida Wells-Barnett. - David Voelker on 2008-01-30
    • This page includes a clip from *Birth of a Nation* along with commentary on the protests against the film. - David Voelker on 2008-01-30
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