Tom Rice

White Robes, Silver Screens

Movies and the Making of the Ku Klux Klan

Indiana University Press 2016

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in FilmNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network January 23, 2017 James Stancil

There has been much discussion recently in the United States about the contentious recent presidential election. Along with the election results, there has also...

There has been much discussion recently in the United States about the contentious recent presidential election. Along with the election results, there has also been an increased interest in the so-called “fake news” stories spread on social media as well as on the emergence of the “Alt Right” movement in the past few years. Many scholars and historians have begun to look to the past for comparisons and parallels to the current state of affairs. 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, White Robes, Silver Screens: Movies and the Making of the Klux Klan (Indiana University Press, 2016) 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, the author 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: Movies and the Making of the Klux Klan 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.

Tom Rice is a senior lecturer in Film Studies at University of St Andrews in the United Kingdom. Dr. Rice focuses on film history, specifically examining the relationship between political and cultural movements and cinema. In addition to his work on the Ku Klux Klan, Dr. Rice has also worked extensively on British colonial, world and transnational cinemas and written extensive historical essays on more than 200 films and production companies. Dr. Rice is currently developing another book length project on the Colonial Film Units of the British Empire during the years 1939-1960.


James Stancil is an independent scholar, freelance journalist, and the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area non-profit dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people.

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