Did this 100-year-old film make people racist?

Did this 100-year-old film make people racist?


When the first ever feature-length film premiered in LA 100 years ago, viewers were astonished by its cinematography, gripping battle scenes and three-hour running time. But it was also racist and helped revive the Ku Klux Klan. Did Birth of a Nation have a greater impact on real life than any other film?

D W Griffith’s film tells the story of America during the Civil War and Reconstruction. It depicts black men (white actors in black face) as violent, stupid and obsessed with interracial marriage. In contrast, it paints the Ku Klux Klan as heroes on a mission to protect the country. 

The film has an “evil, deeply racist side,” says Melvyn Stokes, a film professor at University College London and the author of In the Shadow of ‘The Birth of a Nation’: A Centennial Assessment of Griffith’s film. Despite this, the original audiences were “carried away with the drama of it,” Stokes says. “It must have been a very emotional experience seeing it then.”  [Read more]

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  • Tchaiko Kwayana  On 02/08/2015 at 1:26 am

    Yes! I teach that film in my unit on Terror.

  • sayssammy  On 02/08/2015 at 4:27 am

    Where did this f**king word racism come from?? it’s a word that stirs all the wrong emotions in the human race. we are one race we are human beings, end of story. those who latch on to this wicked word “RACISM” are lower than snakes. mankind is his own worst enemy, not the colour of his skin.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 02/08/2015 at 2:24 pm

    When I was growing up in Guyana, in the days before the arrival of television, the cinema was our main venue for entertainment. Movies contributed to shaping our view of the world beyond our borders.

    The movie that changed the course of my life was “To Sir with Love.” I knew then that I wanted to become a teacher.

  • gigi  On 02/15/2015 at 12:05 pm

    The kkk can also serve as a source for decency. Several years ago the kkk came out dressed in full garb during the trial of a black man charged with sexually abusing and causing the death of his three year old daughter. The father was over 6 ft and weighed close to 300 pounds. The kkk wanted the death penalty for this monster and protested in front of the courthouse every single day during the trial to get their message across. This so called father did get the death penalty. Red thread could be effective if it focused on combating such issues. Maybe a female running mate for the ppp promoting women and children issues will be an effective strategy against the race based, male dominated misogynist pnc/apnu/afc collation.

    • albert  On 02/15/2015 at 12:28 pm

      Could you be so kind as to give us some pointers as to where we could read this fasinating KKK story. Curious mind would enjoy reading.

      • Thinker  On 02/15/2015 at 1:20 pm

        Albert, you have to remember that Gigi often lies outright. “Several years ago” would suggest that it happened in the internet age. A search showed up no such case corresponding to the description. In any case that person would have richly deserved the death penalty. The degree of Gigi’s hate knows no bounds. At least that is well-established.

    • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 02/15/2015 at 3:31 pm

      Gigi, your opening statement pierced my heart: “The kkk can also serve as a source for decency.”

      When we allow our pain to distort reality, we run the risk of emulating our abusers.

    • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 02/15/2015 at 6:17 pm

      Thanks for sharing the link, Clyde. It was too painful to read the complete article. How easily Americans have forgotten their own barbaric acts against blacks in recent American history.

      He who does not learn from history continues on the same path.

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