"Man! are you conscious of your immense responsibility?
You have deliberately undone the work of Harriet Beecher Stowe!"

----Dr. Max Nordau, letter to Dixon

Dixon's Leopard's Spots

Thomas Dixon, Jr., was a nationally-known Baptist preacher when he decided in 1901 to become a novelist. According to his unpublished autobiography, he determined to write The Leopard's Spots while attending one of the touring "Tom shows." Dixon's biographer, Raymond Allen Cook, sums it up this way:

Angered by what seemed to be a great injustice in the play's attitude toward the South, he could hardly keep from jumping to his feet and denouncing the drama as false. Finally, when the performance was over, he arose, vowing that he would tell the "true story" of the South if it was the last act of his life.

In an interview in 1903, Dixon himself said:

I claim the book is an authentic human document and I know it is the most important moral deed of my life. It may shock the prejudice of those who have idealized or worshipped the negro as canonized in "Uncle Tom." Is it not time they heard the whole truth? They have heard only one side for forty years.

In the novel Dixon offers a very unreconstructed account of Reconstruction, in which the villains are Simon Legree, Northern liberals and emancipated slaves and "hero" is the Ku Klux Klan. As you can quickly see from the list of characters that Dixon supplied his readers, his novel includes versions of Stowe's own characters, but if her project (as she put it in her Preface) was to "awaken sympathy" for blacks, his is to depict the black as a savage beast, a threat to white women and American civilization. His "Tom" is a "poor white" Christian whose daughters both die because of blacks.

His novel is hateful, but it was very popular with American readers, north and south. It sold about 200,000 copies in 1902, and led ultimately to two other novels, Dixon's "Klan trilogy," which became the source for D. W. Griffith's highly-regarded and popular film Birth of a Nation (1915). Griffith's movie provoked a lot of criticism, but only a few voices were raised to protest the racial politics of The Leopard's Spots. The evidence suggests many of the same Americans who enjoyed Uncle Tom's Cabin enjoyed Dixon's reactionary "sequel" to its story. The Atlanta Journal, for example, called it "a worthy successor to 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.'"

I'll include the novel's whole table of contents here, so you can see how the 11 chapters I'm asking you to read fit into the larger design. Clicking on the chapters below that appear as links will open up a new browser window from which you can print the chapter; then close that new window to return to this page. There are about 10 more chapters from the novel in the UTC site, in case you'd like to read more!

The Leopard's Spots:
A Romance of the White Man's Burden -- 1865-1900
BOOK I: Legree's Regime
  • I. A Hero Returns . . . 3

  • II. A Light Shining in Darkness . . . 19

  • III. Deepening Shadows . . . 30

  • IV. Mr. Lincoln's Dream . . . 34

  • V. The Old and the New Church . . . 38

  • VI. The Preacher and the Woman of Boston . . . 44

  • VII. The Heart of a Child . . . 52

  • VIII. An Experiment in Matrimony . . . 58

  • IX. A Master of Men . . . 63

  • X. The Man or Brute in Embryo . . . 72

  • XI. Simon Legree . . . 83

  • XII. Red Snow Drops . . . 93

  • XIII. Dick . . . 98

  • XIV. The Negro Uprising . . . 100

  • XV. The New Citizen King . . . 104

  • XVI. Legree Speaker of the House . . . 109

  • XVII. The Second Reign of Terror . . . 118

  • XVIII. The Red Flag of the Auctioneer . . . 130

  • XIX. The Rally of the Clansmen . . . 143

  • XX. How Civilization was Saved . . . 153

  • XXI. The Old and the New Negro . . . 163

  • XXII. The Danger of Playing with Fire . . . 165

  • XXIII. The Birth of a Scalawag . . . 171

  • XXIV. A Modern Miracle . . . 176

  • BOOK II: Love's Dream
  • I. Blue Eyes and Black Hair . . . 187

  • II. The Voice of the Tempter . . . 193

  • III. Flora . . . 200

  • IV. The One Woman . . . 206

  • V. The Morning of Love . . . 213

  • VI. Beside Beautiful Waters . . . 221

  • VII. Dreams and Fears . . . 234

  • VIII. The Unsolved Riddle . . . 240

  • IX. The Rhythm of the Dance . . . 244

  • X. The Heart of a Villain . . . 256

  • XI. The Old, Old Story . . . 265

  • XII. The Music of the Mills . . . 277

  • XIII. The First Kiss . . . 282

  • XIV. A Mysterious Letter . . . 286

  • XV. A Blow in the Dark . . . 290

  • XVI. The Mystery of Pain . . . 301

  • XVII. Is God Omnipotent? . . . 306

  • XVIII. The Ways of Boston . . . 310

  • XIX. The Shadow of a Doubt . . . 317

  • XX. A New Lesson in Love . . . 320

  • XXI. Why the Preacher Threw His Life Away . . . 328

  • XXII. The Flesh and the Spirit . . . 337

  • BOOK III: The Trial by Fire
  • I. A Growl Beneath the Earth . . . 349

  • II. Face to Face with Fate . . . 351

  • III. A White Lie . . . 361

  • IV. The Unspoken Terror . . . 364

  • V. A Thousand-Legged Beast . . . 372

  • VI. The Black Peril . . . 381

  • VII. Equality with a Reservation . . . 385

  • VIII. The New Simon Legree . . . 395

  • IX. The New America . . . 404

  • X. Another Declaration of Independence . . . 409

  • XI. The Heart of a Woman . . . 417

  • XII. The Splendor of Shameless Love . . . 423

  • XIII. A Speech That Made History . . . 431

  • XIV. The Red Shirts . . . 445

  • XV. The Higher Law . . . 447

  • XVI. The End of a Modern Villain . . . 455

  • XVII. Wedding Bells in the Governor's Mansion . . . 457


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