The Birth of a Nation
The Birth of a Nation….A nation of Klansmen
The Birth of a Nation was a silent film made in the early 1900’s that could be described as the most influential film on the History of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the Klan’s history. This film was based on a novel and play entitled the Klansman by Thomas Dixon Jr. and was released on Feb 08, 1915. As with many of the silent films in that day the film was presented in two separate parts with a break for intermission.
The film portrays the relationship between two groups of families during the Civil War in America. One Northern and the other Southern over the course of the war spanning over several years. The film was accepted by the American warmly and was considered a great success. The film was highly controversial due to its portrayal by black face painted white man who portrayed African Americans as savages and the heroic portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Protests emerged as a result of this and the film was actually banned in several cities due to its explicit racism demonizing African Americans while celebrating the actions and fundamental beliefs of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). This film is believed to be responsible for the creation of the “second era” Ku Klux Klan (KKK) which is characterized by its brutality and terrorism that still plague the Klan as of today. As a matter of fact this film was used as a propaganda tool for the KKK to recruit further Klansmen.
Negative response to the film was fueled by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which protested the film in numerous cities and conducted a public education campaign on the film which included petitions, articles, and media campaign on the inaccurate portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the African American population. Some major cities in response to these protest refused to allow the film to be shown and the cities that didn’t heed the protests were plagued with riots, gang violence, and even murders. The release of this movie sparked events that lead to the bloody history or violence and terror within the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) that we are so familiar with today. As a matter of fact because of the great amount of intolerance to this film its director, D. W. Griffith followed this film with what looks like to be an attempt at its polar opposite under the name Intolerance. The film warranted a sequel entitled The Fall of a Nation which released in 1916 remained entirely unnoticed. Despite its success in the foreign market it tanked in the USA and to this day is considered one of America’s great lost films.
The Ku Klux Klan was believed to be an unwanted consequence occurring during the Reconstruction period in history. This time was characterized by its lawlessness and incivility. President Woodrow Wilson, a friend of Thomas Dixon, author of the original screen play of the film made history by having this film be the first shown in the white house. He remarked saying the portrayal in this film of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) “is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true”. The period portrayed he further stated that the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) “began to attempt by intimidation what they were not allowed to attempt by the ballot or by any ordered curse of public action”. Although Wilson disapproved of the production of this film although Dixon and filmmakers were touting it as being a federally endorsed film. The film was said to be controversial due to its interpretation of the history of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The film suggests according to one historian that the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) were to be credited with restoring the government to an honest and pure state by the actions of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) towards African Americans, abolitionists, and contradicting Republican politicians from the North. African American scholars highly criticize the film noting that during the Civil War and Reconstruction Period African Americans contributed positively to society including the establishment of public education for society. The inaccurate view of The Birth of a Nation to be historically accurate is held as the Dunning School view and is still held by some Americans to this day. The depictions of the military actions of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) do not seem to have actual historical ties that could be verified by any historians.
The Birth of a Nation is a groundbreaking film for more than just its glorifying the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) . The film used revolutionary filming techniques that were highly innovative for its day and age. However the film has received widespread criticism for its phantasmal depiction of all out racism in what appears to be documentary format. This deceit has led a sour taste in peoples mouths even today and although some may recognize it as innovative for its time unfortunately it misrepresents history in a highly deceptive manner. In 1992 the United States Library of Congress deemed the film as a piece of culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant as a piece of history. In 2003 the La Times confirmed that the film helped aid the growth of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the 1920’s, a time of its greatest struggle and sources within the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) have confirmed that even today the film is used as a recruiting tool for the Klan.
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