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The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (Novel as American Social History) Paperback – December 31, 1970


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Product Details

  • Series: Novel as American Social History
  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky (December 31, 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813101263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813101262
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,023,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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""The Clansman probes the roots of the racial violence that still haunts our society." -- The Lone Star Book Review" --


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61 of 75 people found the following review helpful By K. L. Rouse on October 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This novel is important reading--not as a lesson in historical fact, but rather to understand and envision the power (and inherent violence) of a white supremacist worldview in American history. Dixon is careful to detail many facts about historical figures, particularly President Lincoln and Republican Congressman Thad Stevens, including many actual quotes and near-quotes of these men in their dialogue; he is meticulous and masterful with so many aspects of this novel. The Clansman (and Dixon's later novel, The Traitor) are virtually the only works of popular American literature to render a sympathetic, insider view of the Ku Klux Klan. Dixon includes so many rich and rare details of history that it's no wonder readers have been persuaded (and still are, apparently) that this is a complete and accurate picture of what is perhaps the single most tumultuous period of American history.
But it would be a gross error to assume that Dixon's portrayal of race relations is at all accurate. Dixon makes it appear that southern whites were made vulnerable (by the federal government, by military rule, and by the ravages of war) to the attacks of an animalistic race of out-of-control freedmen, but nothing can be further than the truth. White southerners inflicted violence upon blacks to maintain their brutal control over social relations and labor--and then generated a powerful, lasting mythology of black criminality and brutality to perpetuate this violence and justify it.
Any reading of first-hand accounts of black freedmen during Reconstruction is alternately chilling and saddening--particularly the Congressional testimonies of freedmen about the race riots of Memphis and New Orleans in 1866.
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44 of 61 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Thomas Dixon, Jr.'s "The Clansman" is best known as the prime source for D. W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation." A bestseller in its own right, "The Clansman" presents a vision of a South overrun with lascivious black men out to rape white women unless the KKK can intercede. As a novel it is maudlin, melodramatic, and unconvincing; as a history textbook, it is damnable.
Some reviewers for the hardcover edition of this book would have you believe that, because Woodrow Wilson approved of both Dixon's novel and Griffith's film, his affirmation validates Dixon's depiction of the poor maligned white man and his sexually threatened wife and daughter. Hardly the case--in spite of history textbooks' portrayal of Wilson, he was himself a virulent racist, outmatched only, perhaps, by his wife. As James W. Loewen indicates in his review of history textbooks, "Lies My Teacher Told Me," the "filmmaker David W. Griffith quoted Wilson's two-volume history of the United States, now notorious for its racist view of Reconstruction, in his infamous masterpiece 'The Clansman' [later retitled Birth of a Nation], a paean to the Ku Klux Klan for its role in putting down 'black-dominated' Republican state governments during Reconstruction" (18). Loewen notes later that "Wilson was not only antiblack; he was also far and away our most nativist president, repeatedly questioning the loyalty of those he called 'hyphenated Americans.' 'Any man who carries a hyphen about with him,' said Wilson, 'carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready' " (19).
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Aletheia Knights on November 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Although it was a bestseller in its day, it's likely "The Clansman" would have been long forgotten if it hadn't served as the basis for D.W. Griffith's classic motion picture "The Birth of a Nation." A genius at the forefront of the emerging art of filmmaking, Griffith employed a number of innovative narrative and cinematographic techniques in his adaptation of Thomas Dixon, Jr.'s novel. Over three hours in length at a time when most films were under an hour, with a ticket price (two dollars) equivalent to fifty dollars in today's currency, it was a melodramatic spectacle the likes of which had never before been seen on the silver screen. Today, however, it is remembered (except by cinephiles) not as the original blockbuster, but as crude and disgusting racist propaganda. This stirring film, which glamorized the role of the Ku Klux Klan in the Reconstruction South, revitalized interest in an organization that had died out decades earlier. A decade after the film was released, two decades after the novel was published, membership in the Klan was at its height, with nearly ten times as many men as the most generous estimates of the Reconstruction Era Klan. The re-formed Klan was created less in the image of the actual historic Klan than in that of the romanticized version Dixon had depicted in his novel.

The novel opens in April 1865, with the nation's capital abuzz with the happy news that General Lee has surrendered, and the Civil War is over. Mrs. Cameron has come up from South Carolina with her daughter Margaret in search of her wounded son. Ben's going to survive, a sympathetic nurse informs her, but that doesn't mean he's out of danger: he's been sentenced to hanging on trumped-up charges. (Why no less a personage than Secretary of War Edwin M.
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