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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 "road show," I find a sharp spike in lynchings and race riots coinciding with its arrival in a county. Instrumenting for road show 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. Road show counties continue to experience higher rates of hate crimes and hate groups a century later.


Ang, Desmond. "The Birth of a Nation: Media and Racial Hate." American Economic Review 113.6 (June 2023): 1424-1460.