Diversity Film Series: The Birth of a Nation

Wednesday, April 12, 5:00 – 7:30pm

A&S 109

Moderator: Dr. Larry Green, Professor of African American History

Birth of a Nation (1915), the first film ever screened at the White House, perpetuated the racist stereotypes from the antebellum minstrel stage and pro-slavery propaganda depictions of happy slaves contented with bondage. The “heroes” of this film were the “night riders” of the Ku Klux Klan. The film’s original title, The Clansman, was based on Thomas Dixon’s book, The Clansman. The post-Civil War South is distorted from a place of oppression of four million victims of slavery to one in which their owners are portrayed as the victims of northern vengeance and alleged primitive barbarism of African Americans not ready for nor entitled to freedom and citizenship. Rescue, reconciliation, and reconstruction are all achieved by Klan machismo and terror. African American civil rights organizations protested, but to no avail. Birth of a Nation contributed to the entrenchment of American racism and justification of the “Jim Crow” era of which it was so much a part.

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