White Robes, Silver Screens

White Robes, Silver Screens

Movies and the Making of the Ku Klux Klan
Tom Rice
Distribution: World
Publication date: 01/04/2016
ISBN: 978-0-253-01848-9
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Honorable Mention, 2016 INDIEFAB Award in Performing Arts & MusicRunner-up, 2017 BAFTSS Book Prize

The Ku Klux Klan was reestablished in Atlanta in 1915, barely a week before the Atlanta premiere of The Birth of a Nation, D. W. Griffith’s paean to the original Klan. While this link between Griffith's film and the Klan has been widely acknowledged, Tom Rice explores the little-known relationship between the Klan’s success and its use of film and media in the interwar years when the image, function, and moral rectitude of the Klan was contested on the national stage. By examining rich archival materials including a series of films produced by the Klan and a wealth of documents, newspaper clippings, and manuals, Rice uncovers the fraught history of the Klan as a local force that manipulated the American film industry to extend its reach across the country. White Robes, Silver Screens highlights the ways in which the Klan used, produced, and protested against film in order to recruit members, generate publicity, and define its role within American society.

Author Bio

Tom Rice is a lecturer in Film Studies at University of St Andrews.


“Tom Rice’s well-researched, highly readable study of how the KKK used, made, and protested against the movies is an important, much-needed contribution to what we know about the afterlife of The Birth of a Nation. But the scholarly reach of White Robes, Silver Screens extends well beyond Griffith’s notorious epic, offering new insights on the history of film exhibition in the American heartland in the 1920s and on Hollywood’s screening of the Klan.”
 — Gregory A. Waller, Indiana University

“This book is a much-needed, courageous examination of the bewildering persistence of a racist organization and their use of moving images to build a shameful American legacy. It is a compelling read, reminding us with each page that pictures and sounds have long been integral and strategic elements not just of ambitious entertainers or benevolent reformers but also of notorious organizations seeking to distort and malign concepts of justice, citizenship, race and religion throughout the 20th Century and beyond.”
 — Haidee Wasson, Concordia University

“Quickly moving us beyond everything we knew about D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, Tom Rice’s White Robes, Silver Screens is a brilliant exposé that unveils the complex, rich, and disturbing history of the modern Klan, its extensive appropriations of motion pictures for political purposes, its attacks on Hollywood, and Hollywood’s own multi-faceted responses to this powerful force of reaction. A fresh and compelling perspective on American cinema from the release of Griffith’s blockbuster to the Second World War.”
 — Charles Musser, Yale University

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Table of Contents

1. Re-Birth: The Birth of a Nation and the Growth of the Klan
2. The Battle: Censorship, Reform, and the Klan’s Campaign against the Film Industry
3. Klan Cinema: The Klan as Producer and Exhibitor
4. On Mainstream Screens: The Film Industry’s Response to the Klan