Thomas Dixon Jr. was born on November 11, 1864, in rural
North Carolina during the Civil War. Educated at Wake Forest and Johns Hopkins
Universities, Mr. Dixon was, among other things, a novelist, preacher, lecturer,
lawyer, and state legislator. During his lifetime, he published twenty-two
novels and several essays, plays, and sermons. He has been named among both the
most dated and most contemporary Southern writers.
Mr. Dixon's “Trilogy of Reconstruction,” which included the
novels The Clansman, The Traitor, and The Leopard's Spots, was made into D. W.
Griffith's cinema masterpiece, Birth of a Nation. The movie was praised
for its artistry and vilified for its subject matter even in its own day:
romancing the activity of the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction.
In the preface to his book, The Clansman, Mr. Dixon
claims to have “sought to preserve . . . both the letter and spirit of this
remarkable period” when the “young South, led by the reincarnated souls of the
Clansmen of Old Scotland, went forth under this cover” as an “Invisible Empire”
into “one of the most dramatic chapters in history.”
Famous as a lecturer in his time, Mr. Dixon was considered a
creator of attitudes, an interpreter of Southern history, and a reflector of the
biases of his age. His novels and the movie made from them influenced American
thought and contributed to the development of the climate of race relations in
the twentieth century.