Rudyard Kipling's 1899 poem “The White Man's Burden” is frequently invoked in the online postings of white supremacists making various arguments about contemporary race relations. Many follow Senator Ben Tillman's early appropriation of the text as an argument for racial separatism and isolationism, while others advocate a new imperialism. This article examines how Kipling's poem takes on the special qualities of a meme, allowing a loosely affiliated community of authors and audiences to signal their identities through transmission of a shared text even as they stray in multiple directions from its original meaning. Newly examined primary sources draw from a range of so-called “alt-right” spokesmen and obscure Internet users to demonstrate how the concept of the “white man's burden” has adapted to survive in a cultural environment more than a century removed from its origin, and how Kipling himself has been adopted by a twenty-first century subculture.

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