Thomas Dixon was born on January 11, 1864, in the rural highlands of Shelby, North Carolina, the son of a farmer and Baptist minister. His early years were shaped by Reconstruction and the military occupation of the South, which he later viewed as a crime against southern life and culture. Dixon established an early academic reputation in history and political science at Wake Forest, where he earned a master's degree in 1883. After winning a scholarship, Dixon began his studies at John Hopkins University, where he became a friend of Woodrow Wilson; however, in 1884 he left his political science course to become an actor in New York City.
Failing on the stage, Dixon returned to North Carolina to attend Greensboro Law School, where he received his degree in 1885. Dixon would at various times pursue careers embracing law, the ministry, and state politics and, most significantly, as a lecturer and writer. From 1902 until 1939, Dixon wrote 22 novels, mostly in a nineteenth-century romantic vein that often glorified southern womanhood. He also wrote numerous plays, sermons, and works of nonfiction. In later years his reputation blossomed as a national lecturer. His themes describing the pains of Reconstruction in the South, the travails of hardworking families, and the threat of socialism found a ready and receptive audience.
Thomas Dixon also employed inflammatory themes such as incest and interracial sex in his play and later novel, Sins of the Father (1910–1912). In Comrades (1909), later made into a film, and Bolshevism on Trial (1919), Dixon directed his attention to the threat of socialism. He was especially critical of socialist themes as espoused in works such as Edward Bellamy's highly popular novel Looking Backward (1887). In Dixon's last work, Flaming Sword (1939), he critiqued both the prospects of racial equality and communism. Thomas Dixon died in Raleigh, North Carolina, on April 3, 1946, and is buried in Shelby, North Carolina.
Theodore W. Eversole
See also: Bellamy, Edward (1850–1898) ; Griffith, D. W. (1875–1948), and The Birth of a Nation ; South, Populism in the
Gillespie, Michele K., and Randall Hall, eds. Thomas Dixon Jr. and the Birth of Modern America. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2009.
Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth. Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896–1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
Ruiz-Velasco, Chris. “Order Out of Chaos: Whiteness, White Supremacy and Thomas Dixon, Jr.” College Literature 34 (4): 148–165.
Slide, Anthony. The Life and Times of Thomas Dixon. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004.
Williamson, Joel R. The Crucible of Race: Black White Relations in the American South since Emancipation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.