In the midst of re-numbering the entire library catalog, Librarian Robin Silva has uncovered some interesting history.

In October 1907, a book had been discovered in the Athenaeum’s stock room, left there anonymously. Published in 1905, the book was The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan by Thomas Dixon Jr. At the time, the Athenaeum cataloged the book and gave it the object ID number 22568.

Author Thomas Dixon Jr. was a known white supremacist and supporter of the Ku Klux Klan. The Clansman was published second after Dixon’s first book, The Leopard’s Spots, and before his book The Traitor. These titles formed a best selling trilogy that was adapted for the film The Birth of a Nation.

While initially cataloged,The Clansman did not stay long in the Athenaeum. In 1908, just a few months after being accessioned, the book was deaccessioned, and its accession record erased. Around April of that year, a new book was given its former object ID number. Evidence of The Clansman’s short history at the Athenaeum could only be found in the deaccession records in the MS001 Portsmouth Athenaeum manuscript collection.

For further perspective, the Athenaeum collection includes the pamphlet As To the Leopard’s Spots: An Open Letter to Thomas Dixon, Jr., by Kelly Miller (Object ID 36114). Kelly Miller was a Howard University faculty member, mathematician, sociologist, and author. The pamphlet argues against allegations of African American inferiority touted by Thomas Dixon Jr.


For more information on the MS001 Portsmouth Athenaeum manuscript collection, click the button below to see the finding aid.