In the early 1900s, the Democrats were the anti-civil-rights, anti-big-government party. President Woodrow Wilson—a Democrat—was the first to hold a film screening at the White House. He showed The Birth of a Nation, a popular film that celebrated the Ku Klux Klan for murdering a Black man who attempted to rape a white woman. Rape is a serious crime. But during this time period, white people often falsely accused Black men of rape in order to justify lynching them. This was also during World War I, when Black people were migrating north to escape Jim Crow (racial segregation).
When Wilson showed the infamous racist propaganda film The Birth of a Nation at the White House, he made his allegiances clear: he supported racism and white supremacist terrorism, and so did the highest levels of the U.S. government. The fact that this was the first film ever shown at the White House again shows how racism is deeply rooted in American institutions and popular culture—but still possible to uproot and undo. In the early 1900s, even if slavery was over, the law was still a powerful instrument for racist oppression. The myth that Black men constantly wanted to rape white women was a powerful racist idea that justified this racist oppression and trivialized real cases of rape and sexual assault.