The Birth of a Nation, also previously called The Clansmen, was created during a pivotal time in the U.S. Not only did it surpass all other film attempts before it, but it also outlined the nations view towards racism at the time of 1915. Blacks had begun to gain freedom over slavery but were still seen as inferior to the white race. This singling out of minorities is now highly controversial, but at the time it was perfectly normal. So as a result one must one must look at this topic from all views to truly understand the film itself and to also explore its importance in the study of minorities in film.
The Birth of a Nation was one of the world’s first films on reconstruction; the period of time after the Civil War where southern and northern states came together, sacrificing beliefs and settling for a government both parties could agree on. Reconstruction ended around 1875 and The Birth of a Nation was sent to the big screen in 1915. The timing of the film being produced and distributed is critical, many are still sour about the outcome of the war, and a new war is just ready to begin.
The director of the film, D.W. Griffith, grew up in Kentucky under a father who happened to be a Confederate hero and also the first person to influence his racial perspective on his son. Because of his upbringing, these views of blacks and whites were greatly distorted by the time period and his father alike. The black race of this time was seen as a lower class of human when compared to Caucasians. These ideas, along side with the literary work of Thomas Dixon Jr., are the basis for which the film The Birth of a Nation originated. As far as they were both concerned, the movie was a heroic epic of the all mighty white people.
No more than fifty years after the Civil War, this film was made. African-Americans were nowhere near finding equality or having civil rights that they were said to have or presumed to have. Separate but somehow equal was... [continues]
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