Thomas Dixon


In a chapter dignified by the title “Racial Philosophy in Dixon’s Novels,” his biographer, Raymond A. Cook, points out that the man felt perfectly cordial to other minority groups—he liked Jews, Catholics, and, inexplicably, was particularly fond of Turks. To him, the spectral foe of his youth, the imaginary night riders that the small boy had awaited behind his shotgun, was the only true enemy. And the only true heroes were the saviors of his boyhood: although his books helped bring about the rebirth of the KKK in the 1920’s, Dixon denounced this “renegade” Klan as a band of ruffians and opportunists, unworthy of the lofty traditions of the original.

During the decade he devoted his efforts to making cautionary movies in his own studio—he was convinced he could outdo Griffith—and, when that fell through, to buying Florida land and building an artists’ colony in the North Carolina mountains. He lost heavily; in a few years he was broke. In 1939 a cerebral hemorrhage left Dixon a semi-invalid, but his hot, intemperate mind continued to function. He stuck to his writing, and was still on the barricades a few months after his stroke, when he finished the last of his twenty books, The Flaming Sword . In it, black Communists take over America and found the Soviet Republic of the United States. Dixon must have been bitter by this time; it is the only one of his race-struggle books that does not end with the re-establishment of white hegemony. He had high hopes for the novel, but his vogue had passed. One Southern critic saw the book as a relic, deserving “news treatment rather than literary criticism.” It didn’t sell.

Dixon died in 1946. Sixty years earlier he had written a poem to his fiancée which included the lines, “A hell of restlessness, I have drained, drained.”