Desmond Ang will be presenting in person. Viewers may also attend via Zoom.
Desmond Ang is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Desmond’s research areas include, intersection of race, government and media.
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.