The Birth of a Nation: Media and Racial Hate


Ang, D. The Birth of a Nation: Media and Racial Hate. American Economic Review conditionally accepted, (Working Paper).


This paper documents the impact of popular media on racial hate by examining the first American blockbuster: 1915’s The Birth of a Nation,  a fictional portrayal of the KKK’s founding rife with racist stereotypes. Exploiting the film’s five-year "roadshow", I find a sharp spike in lynchings and race riots coinciding with its arrival in a county. Instrumenting for roadshow destinations using the location of theaters prior to the movie's release, I show that the film significantly increased local Klan support in the 1920s. Roadshow counties continue to experience higher rates of hate crimes and hate groups a century later.

Last updated on 11/10/2022