Birth of a Nation


US President Woodrow Wilson was a progressive Democrat who introduced liberal reforms at home, fought for democratic liberties and human rights abroad. But on race relations he was regressive, which had long been forgotten.

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Wilson's good friend and longtime confidant Thomas Dixon penned the period novel, “The Clansman" He claimed to be conservative politically, as well as religiously and fought against extending political rights to African Americans.
He promoted fear that social equality would inevitably result in miscegenation, where sexual relations, marriage or otherwise between people from two different races. During fifteen years of his writing career, he made fortunes, but not until now Dixon's works were tucked away in relative obscurity.

Birth of a Nation in 8 Minutes

Using quotations from Wilson’s scholarly writings, the silent film, Birth of a Nation denounced the Reconstruction period in the South when blacks held elective office in several states. It hailed the rise of the Ku Klux Klan white society’s recovery from the humiliation and suffering to which the federal government and the “carpetbaggers” had subjected it after its defeat in the Civil War. The film depicted African-Americans as uncouth and uncivilized.

Watch the following film by D.W. Griffith: Birth of a Nation (1915)



Princeton says it will better contextualize Woodrow Wilson's legacy. What will that look like?