The Birth of a Nation (originally called The Clansman) is a 1915 silent drama film directed by D. W. Griffith and based on the novel and play The Clansman, both by Thomas Dixon, Jr. Griffith co-wrote the screenplay (with Frank E. Woods), and co-produced the film (with Harry Aitken). It was released on February 8, 1915. The film was originally presented in two parts, separated by an intermission.
The film chronicles the relationship of two families in Civil War and Reconstruction-era America: the pro-Union Northern Stonemans and the pro-Confederacy Southern Camerons over the course of several years. The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth is dramatized.
The film was a commercial success, but was highly controversial owing to its portrayal of African American men (played by white actors in blackface) as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women, and the portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan (whose original founding is dramatized) as a heroic force. There were widespread protests against The Birth of a Nation, and it was banned in several cities. The outcry of racism was so great that Griffith was inspired to produce Intolerance the following year.
The movie is also credited as one of the events that inspired the formation of the "second era" Ku Klux Klan at Stone Mountain, Georgia in the same year. The Birth of a Nation was used as a recruiting tool for the KKK. It was the first motion picture to be shown at the White House. President Woodrow Wilson supposedly said the film was "like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true." The attribution is disputed.
Famous quotes containing the word birth:
“No body can conceive that nature ever intended to throw away a Newton upon the occupations of a crown. It would have been a prodigality for which even the conduct of providence might have been arraigned, had he been by birth annexed to what was so far below him.”
—Thomas Jefferson (17431826)