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

Resource type
Authors/contributors
Title
Reconciliation Narratives: The Birth of a Nation after the US Civil War
Abstract
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.
Publication
American Economic Review
Volume
113
Issue
6
Pages
1461-1504
Date
2023-06
Citation
Esposito, E., Rotesi, T., Saia, A., & Thoenig, M. (2023). Reconciliation Narratives: The Birth of a Nation after the US Civil War. American Economic Review, 113, 1461–1504.
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