White Protestant Nation (1915–1925)

When Terrorism Won in America

Still from


White Protestant Nation investigates how new forms and guises of racism developed during the early 20th century. It explores the “rebirth” and reincarnation of the Ku Klux Klan as a mass fraternal order which tried to enforce its version of public morality, and fought against immigrants of “alien cultures.”

  • The first half, “A White Man’s Government”, includes the 1920 Election Day mob destruction of Ocoee, Florida in the words of Florida’s own Zora Neale Hurston and contemporary newspaper accounts. We look at perceptual gaps between “objective” reporters, Black and White.
  • The second half, “Marketing Racism”, examines the 1915 film Birth of a Nation, which glorified the Klan, and the scandals that eventually undermined the Klan’s “invisible empire.”

Women of the Klan
(click for larger image)

Eyewitnesses, participants and their descendants tell their stories, while writers, activists, and scholars debate them.

How the South Won the War and White Protestant Nation were first released in February 2000, as When Terrorism Won in America.

Reading History by Lightning

Producer, Writer, Director: Alan Lipke

Script Editor: Jude Thilman

Narrator: Belinda Womack

Sound Design and Engineering: James Beckwith of Common Touch Music

Historic Music provided by: Anna Chairetakis, Matthew Barton and the Alan Lomax Archives, and Rounder Records; County Records; Oscar Brand, Don Kent, Mamlish Records; the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors; Original Music by: Bobby O’Donovan, Sarasota Slim, Billy Carr and Andy Irvine, and the St. James/H.O.P.E All-Stars, Devon Rice and Belinda Womack, and Phil Oldham.

Readings: Jack Belt, Michael DuMouchel, Louis Iacavello, James Martin Kelly, Daphne McDowell, Phyllis McEwen as Zora Neale Hurston, Steven McGruder, LeRoy Mitchell, Guido Roncallo, Tom Stix, and Jim Wicker.

Oral History Recordings from Duke University’s Behind the Veil Collection, The Southern Regional Council’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken Archives, Professor Charles Hardy, Harlon Joye and the Living Atlanta Archive, The Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Mississippi Oral History Program, and J. Robert Cook and Indiana Public Television.

The Rockefeller Foundation, the Florida Humanities Council, The Fund for Investigative Journalism and support from the Nathan B. Stubblefield Foundation/WMNF community radio of Tampa Bay made this production possible.