The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan is the title of a novel published in 1905. It was the second work in the Ku Klux Klan trilogy by Thomas F. Dixon, Jr. that included The Leopard's Spots and The Traitor. It was influential in providing the ideology that helped support the revival of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The novel was immediately adapted by its author as a play entitled The Clansman (1905) and by D. W. Griffith as the groundbreaking 1915 silent movie The Birth of a Nation.
The play particularly inspired the second half of The Birth of a Nation, as it was concerned with the KKK and Reconstruction rather than the American Civil War. According to Professor Russell Merritt, key differences between the play and film are said to include that Dixon was more sympathetic to Southerners' pursuing education and modern professions, whereas Griffith stressed ownership of plantations; moreover, Dixon envisioned the KKK as more organized and structured than it was.
Dixon wrote The Clansman as a message to Northerners to maintain racial segregation, as the work claimed that blacks when free turned savage.
Characters[edit | edit source]
- Austin Stoneman - Northern political leader who advocates and implements Reconstruction in the conquered Southern states. Introduces bill to impeach President Andrew Johnson.
- Elsie Stoneman - daughter of the above. Defies father's wishes by falling in love with young Southern rebel Ben Cameron.
- Phil Stoneman - son and brother of the above. Falls in love with Southerner Margaret Cameron.
- Lydia Brown - Austin Stoneman's mulatto housekeeper
- Silas Lynch - mulatto assistant to Austin Stoneman. Aids him in imposing Reconstruction on the recalcitrant Southerners.
- Marion Lenoir - fifteen year old white girl who was Ben Cameron's childhood sweetheart. Raped by Gus and commits suicide by jumping off a cliff.
- Jeannie Lenoir - mother of the above. Joins her daughter in fatal cliff leap.
- Gus - a former slave of the Camerons. Rapes Marion and is then abducted and executed by the Ku Klux Klan, under the supervision of the "Grand Dragon" Ben Cameron.
- Dr Richard Cameron - a Southern doctor, falsely charged with complicity in the murder of President Lincoln.
- Mrs Cameron - wife of Dr Richard Cameron.
- Ben Cameron - son of the above and the "hero" of the novel. Falls in love with Northerner Elsie Stoneman. Fought for the South in the Civil War and later joins the Ku Klux Klan in order to restore white supremacy.
- Margaret Cameron - sister of the above.
- President Abraham Lincoln
- President Andrew Johnson - Lincoln's successor. Impeached in Congress for opposing Reconstruction.
References[edit | edit source]
- Russell Merritt, "Dixon, Griffith, and the Southern Legend." Cinema Journal, Vol. 12, No. 1. (Autumn, 1972)