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How did the country respond to the racist 1915 blockbuster film, The Birth of a Nation?

What was the historical significance of this film?

What was the historical significance of this era of American society?

It was called “racist pornography” for its glorification of white supremacists and negative at the turn of the twentieth century.

This documentary talks about the story of the infamous blockbuster film and the response from different sides of society. While the president allowed the film to be the first ever to be shown in the white house, the NAACP and William Monroe Trotter, a newspaper editor in Boston, tried to fight back in protest of the film.

The Birth of a Nation was regarded as a cinematic masterpiece at the time of its release, but was in fact an extremely racist film that depicted black men as animalistic and aggressive, while glorifying the KKK throughout the story of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Subjects covered in this documentary include:

  • The Birth of a Nation
  • Silent Film
  • D.W. Griffith
  • William Monroe Trotter
  • W.E.B. DuBois
  • Booker T. Washington
  • Segregation
  • Jim Crow
  • The NAACP
  • The Ku Klux Klan
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Herbert Hoover
  • Oscar Micheaux’s film Within Our Gates

In 1992, the Library of Congress deemed The Birth ofa Nation “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Independent Lens: Birth of a Movement  Documentary | Episode aired 6 February 2017 7.2
Director: Bestor Cram, Susan GrayWriters: Kwyn Bader, Dick LehrStars: Bob Bellinger, David Blight, Vincent BrownSummary: The story of William Monroe Trotter, the nearly forgotten editor of a Boston black newspaper who tried to ban the controversial film The Birth of a Nation (1915).

Watch The Birth of a Nation on YouTube below to understand the historical context of the racist nature of the United States through the oppressive depictions of black Americans.

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