Reconciliation Narratives: The Birth of a Nation after the US Civil War

Link to article


We study how the spread of the Lost Cause narrative-a revisionist and racist retelling of the US Civil War-shifted opinions and behaviors toward national reunification and racial discrimination against African Americans. Looking at screenings of The Birth of a Nation, a blockbuster movie that greatly popularized the Lost Cause after 1915, we find that the film shifted the public discourse toward a more patriotic and less divisive language, increased military enlistment, and fostered cultural convergence between former enemies. We document how the racist content of the narrative connects to reconciliation through a "common-enemy" type of argument.


American Economic Review