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Berquist, Goodwin, and James Greenwood. "Protest against Racism: The Birth of a Nation in Ohio." Journal of the University Film Association 26.3 (1974): 39-44.
This article covers the protests and public movements that took place in Ohio between 1915 and 1918 aimed at cnesoring the film. The protesters consisted of ordinary citizens, many of whom were black, and they built their case against the film on the argument that: 1) the film stirs up ill will between whites and blacks, 2) defames the Negro race, 3) portrays behavior of the KKK as romantic and heroic, 4) distorts the history of the Civil War and its aftermath. There was an initial two-year ban on the film but ultimate approval aroused curiosity and intense public interest. Blacks saw the film as deliberately racist, while whites viewed it as historically accurate and valuable.
Bloomfield, Maxwell. "Dixon's The Leopard's Spots: A Study in Popular Racism." The Negro in the South since 1865: Selected Essays in American Negro History. Ed. Charles Wynes. Montgomery: U of Alabama P, 1965. 83-102.
Through a brief history of Dixon's life, Bloomfield manages to illustrate the contradictory beliefs of the well-known author of The Clansmen. With the exception of family connections to the Ku Klux Klan, the first few decades of Dixon's life seem almost free from racist thought. In his 20's, Dixon found himself unable to settle. From an actor, to a lawyer, to a preacher, he continuously jumped from one profession to another. As a preacher Dixon began writing. In one polemic he actually wrote, "Democracy is the destiny of the race, because all men are bound together in the bonds of fraternal equality with one common love." It was not until the end of the Spanish-American War when the question of whether democracy should be used to manage the new area of control for America, the Philippine Islands, that Dixon began to show racist tendencies. He believed that Filipinos were barbaric people that could not be left to make decisions for themselves. Dixon's first major expression of his approval of inequality was his best-selling book The Leopard's Spots. The book answers the question of why Dixon believed the African-American people pose a threat to democratic government. His reasoning stemmed from the African-American "race's inheritance of six thousand years of savagery in the African jungle." The Leopard's Spots became hugely controversial, even escalating the concern for the "Negro problem" to a national level.
Bogle, Donald. "The Brutal Black Buck and The Birth of a Nation." Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. 4th ed. Oxford: Roundhouse Press, 1994.
Griffiths uses three main stereotypes of black characters. These stereotypes were the cause of the controversy that followed when the film first debuted in 1915. The film was supposed to portray history in an accurate light, but it ended up being seen as a recruiting tool for the Ku Klux Klan and racist propaganda by many viewers. The first of the three stereotypical blacks were the "faithful souls," the blacks that remain loyal to their white masters. These characters, such as mammy, who stays with the Camerons to protect them from the black militias, created the myth of slave contentment in bondage. The second stereotype were the "black brutes," the barbarians who add to the chaos of the post-Civil War period known as Reconstruction. These include the legislators who take over the majority in southern government. The final stereotype, and perhaps the most widely known was the "black buck," the black man who is eternally thirsting for young white flesh. An example from the film is Gus who follows the young Cameron girl while she is fetching water from the river. The idea of the black rapist was one that sat with a white audience and caused fear and hatred towards the black population. The three stereotypes Griffith uses promote the racist ideology of the film. They are common stereotypes that reveal the ties between fear and racism, as well as created hatred for the black race in America.
"Capitalizing Race Hatred." New York Globe 6 April 1915. Silva 73-75. Lang 164-65.
The Globe criticizes Griffith's film: it reignites ill feelings between blacks and whites. While Griffith portrays the southern whites as the "good guys," the North and the former slaves are not villains. The North accepted the South back without repercussions, and most of the blacks' actions did not resemble those in the film. The blacks did not deserve the punishment portrayed in the film. In fact, "what man will say that the outrages of black on white equaled in number of the outrages of white on black?" It is unfair for either race to hold the other completely accountable for the atrocities that occurred. The slaves endured great difficulties: they were taken from their homes, brought to a foreign land, and treated like property. Even after freedom, these men and women were still thought to be inferior to whites. The Globe attacks the film as a way to make money by slandering an entire race of people. This influential editorial generated responses by both Griffith and Dixon.
Carter, Everett. "Cultural History Written with Lightning: The Significance of The Birth of a Nation." American Quarterly 12 (1960): 347-57. Silva 133-43.
Carter attempts to do three things: establish Dixon's The Clansmen as an exercise in "Plantation Illusion," show Griffith's ability to create an aesthetically pleasing picture, and show how the combination of Dixon's sentimentalism and Griffith's technique create a film that misses the mark. Carter discusses the reception Birth of a Nation received, establishing the link between the film and Dixon's novel. The storyline of both film and book are formed around what Carter terms the Plantation Illusion, providing supporting scenes to exemplify his claim. Carter also thoroughly discusses the film techniques employed by Griffith that set it apart from others of the time. Carter credits Griffith with giving birth to the possibilities of film art. Overall, Carter contends that while Griffith's artistry in shooting the film is clearly noted, its combination with such sentimental content fails to produce greatness.
Cobleigh, Rolfe. "Why I Oppose The Birth of a Nation." Fighting a Vicious Film: Protest against The Birth of a Nation. Ed. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Boston: Boston Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1915. Silva 80-83.
Cobleigh engages in a series of exchanges with Dixon in order to understand "what the chief purpose" of the film was and to further investigate if grounds of disapproval were accurately merited upon the concept that the film "incited race prejudice against the Negro race, that it glorified lynching and falsified history." Dixon responds on behalf of Griffith to Cobleigh's inquiries through asserting that the intent of the film was to "teach the people of the United States, especially children, that the true history of the Reconstruction period was as it was represented in The Birth of a Nation." Dixon provides letters from a Dr. Parkhurst and Mr. Gregory that portray the movie in a positive light, and also alleges the film sought "to create a feeling of abhorrence in white people, especially white women against colored men." Further, Dixon contends (1) the Ku Klux Klan was formed to protect white women from Negro men and to restore southern power and order, (2)"the race problem" should be solved "through the colonization of Negroes in Africa or South America." Much to Cobleigh's chagrin, none of Dixon's efforts prove to be tenable. Cobleigh is not impressed or convinced by the provided rationales. Thus, Cobleigh attends multiple showings of the film as an "impartial" viewer but is not pleased with any version that he sees, and therefore he expresses his disapproval and renders the play "as falsifying history, in a riot of emotions glorifying crime, especially lynching, immorality, inviting prejudice against race, falsely representing the character of colored Americans, and teaching the undemocratic, unchristian, and unlawful doctrine that all colored people should be removed from the United States."
Cook, Raymond A. "The Man behind The Birth of a Nation." North Carolina Historical Review 29 (October 1962): 519-40.
Cook follows Dixon's life from his impoverished roots to his successful careers in the fields of politics, literature, and theatre, but his main purpose is to show how Dixon influences Griffith, especially in his second novel, The Clansman. Seeing the success of this novel, Dixon wanted The Clansman produced as a motion picture, but "no one wanted anything to do with his ‘historical beeswax' until Griffith accepted Dixon's request." The two worked meticulously to find out background material for the historical features and contexts of the story. Once the film made its debut, "Dixon immediately caught the infectious enthusiasm of the group . . . and determined to carry the picture to the nation." Not only does Dixon help create Griffith's blockbuster, but after the film was made he also fights to defend it from critics as well.
Cripps, Thomas R. "The Reaction of the Negro to the Motion Picture, Birth of a Nation." Historian 26 (1963): 344-62. Silva 111-24.
Cripps outlines the struggle that the NAACP, along with other members of the black community, faced in trying to keep Griffith's Birth of a Nation from being released to the public. He clearly denotes that in the face of the film's offensive and inaccurate treatment of the race, the black community had very few means available through which to stop the message being portrayed. With no financial backing available to them, and fearful of ignoring the problem, the film's protesters chose to fight for censorship of the picture. Cripps notes that this was never a fair fight; from the beginning Dixon and Griffith used their high connections to avoid proper channels in securing approval for the film and, instead, took it straight to the President for validation. The NAACP continued to be shot down in almost every major city in the country and were instead awarded half-hearted concessions, such as edits that never got made. Eventually the bad press the film received began to take effect, causing the President and other high-ranking officials to withdraw their support. The protesters were successful in stopping the film and others like it from being shown in several places, but large cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and San Francisco kept the picture in theaters. As the fight began to wane, W.E.B. DuBois said, "If the film was a cruel slander upon a weak and helpless race, then the race must learn to use its money for films, poetry, music and its own history" (123), acknowledging that the fight for censorship leads to a long and negative battle.
Davenport, F. Gavin, Jr. "Thomas Dixon's Mythology of Southern History." Journal of Southern History 36.3 (1970): 350-67.
Davenport relates the film Dixon's novels, all of which contain racial themes. Dixon's four root concepts that contribute to his overall mythological view of the South include southern uniqueness, union, mission, and southern burden. Each novel exemplified situations of Southern superiority, triumph, and racism ring true. Dixon claims recurrently that the Southern way of life, free of industrialization and clad in American spirit, hold the true key to the definition of Americanism. Davenport also discusses the South's argument that through the difficult experiences of the reconstruction era they have proven their moral superiority to the North, for instance, in their ability to triumph against the "corruption and degradation" existent in the North because of industrialization. Southerners claim "pastoral uniqueness" in their projected visions of pastures and beautiful fielded landscapes. However, Davenport brings to the surface the underlying meanings of these claims and , in turn, the four major arguments. The south uses these slogans to "defend against the Negro and industrialism" as if there was a link between the two. In essence, Davenport's essay serves to pry at the seemingly logical arguments the South upholds as a shield against its racist roots and fears of inadequacy.
Dixon, Thomas. "Fair Play for The Birth of a Nation." Boston Journal 26 April 1915. Silva 90-95.
Dixon argues against two primary points from an article in the Boston Journal: call for a Massachusetts law banning the film and testimony from the "president of the negro society" regarding the lack of truth in The Birth of a Nation. Dixon argues first that censorship is wrong on ethical grounds, which apply to all such works. He states that he would never support a bill to censor a piece called The Nigger, which was written in direct response to The Birth of a Nation and which supports interracial marriage. Dixon also defends his version of history, citing evidence to support his claims of rampant "negroes" and northern suppression of southern states' rights during the Reconstruction.
Dixon, Thomas. Reply to the New York Globe. New York Globe 10 April 1915. Silva 75-77. Lang 166-67.
Dixon's response to the Globe is a challenge for the editor to actually find something factually wrong with his book and the film. He accuses the editor of attacking him without even solid evidence to back it up, specifically a quote by the Globe accusing Dixon of portraying the Stonemans of Washington as "paramours of quadroon mistresses, moved by petty spite." Dixon retaliates with detailed paragraphs of the true story of Thaddeus Stevens and the quadroon Negress he forced to live with him, away from her own husband, until Stevens' death. He invites the Globe to question the validity of any of the facts he presents, declaring that he will remove his play from the stage if any established historians find them false. Arguing that he is merely portraying history as it happened from a light that may not be viewed as moral by all, he finishes by asking the thought-provoking question,"is it a crime to present a bad black man, seeing we have so many bad white ones?"
Franklin, John Hope. Birth of a Nation--Propaganda as History." The Massachusetts Review 20 (1979): 417-33. Reprinted in Race and History: Selected Essays 1938-1988. Ed. John Hope Franklin. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989. 10-24.
While most criticism Griffith's depiction of historical events, Franklin places the blame at the feet of Dixon: "the supreme tragedy is that in The Clansmen and in Birth of a Nation, Thomas Dixon succeeded in using a powerful and wonderful new instrument of communication to perpetuate a cruel hoax on the American people that has come distressingly close to being permanent." Franklin documents Dixon's obsession with the Reconstruction era and the belief in white supremacy. He traces Dixon's feelings back to his experience visiting the South Carolina state legislature at the age of eight. Franklin goes on to chronicle Dixon's rise to fame as the successful author of a trilogy of books depicting his interpretation of the Reconstruction, contending that the criticism Dixon received as far outweighed by praise for his writing. Franklin briefly discusses Dixon's adaptation of his successful novel into the widely known play of the same name. The success of this play lead to Dixon's desire to see his work depicted on the silver screen. Franklin argues that Griffith's film is closely derived from not only Dixon's Clansmen but also from his first novel, The Leopard's Spots. Dixon set out on a stealthy maneuver to make sure that his ideas represented in Griffith's film were seen by the general public throughout the entire country. In doing so Dixon bypassed moral methods of approval and, instead, went straight to President Wilson, an old college friend, for approval and then to members of the Supreme Court. While Dixon spoke publicly about the historical accuracy of both the film and his publications, his personal agenda had never been to provide a realistic interpretation of fact. Franklin maintains that is was this agenda that brought on a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, along with a new generation of writers to carry on his sentiments.
Gallagher, Brian. "Racist Ideology and Black Abnormality in The Birth of a Nation." Phylon 43.1 (1982): 68-76.
Griffth's audience is "clearly white, Protestant Christian, sentimentally idealist and, at least potentially, sympathetic to a racist ideology." Although Griffith's interpretation of history is clearly biased and racist, he portrays it with such consistency and demonstrates such "illogical reasoning that [he] makes [even] mass murder appear reasonable." The most prevalent of consistencies within the film are the depictions of the races. Throughout the entire ABA format of the film--ABA denoting white rule, then black rule, and again white rule--the whites are depicted as steadfast ("horizontal" in terms of filming strategy) and the blacks are frivolous and jittery ("vertical" in terms of filming strategy). While generally people would consider this stereotype to hold true for just the southern or "good" white people and only the defiant or "bad" black people, Griffith unwaveringly casts both the northerners and southerners equally and also shows no sympathy towards loyal black servants. In fact, the character "Mammy," despite her obedience, still acts oafish (for example: retaliating against the union troops by sitting on them). Griffith is consistent with his use of words within the film. Unlike many other silent films, Griffith uses historical quotations within his captions and has a written border that acts as anti-piracy control. These two uses of written word help to legitimize Griffith's claims. Gallagher makes the argument that Griffith's film uses several techniques to promotes racist ideology. He points out the privileged positions that all white characters have and that these characters are prone to transcendental moments that the black characters of the film are denied. This makes the black population seem unfit to hold position of power. This results in the chaos that ensues when the blacks take control of the Southern government in the second half of the film. By making all the protagonists white characters, Griffith ensures that his audience will hold grudges against the black antagonists. The ironies that exist in the film are another tool that Gallagher mentions. One example that he uses is that Stoneman, who crusaded for black equality, has a daughter whose honor is almost compromised by a mulatto man and is then saved by the Ku Klux Klan. The wording of the titles is another factor that Gallagher recognizes, as it is intended for a certain audience and makes references to certain historical events in a twisted way. The titles are therefore used to manipulate the audience. Gallagher writes of Griffith's narrative techniques as a vehicle for the racist ideas apparent throughout the film. Griffith's accomplishment is impressive yet such a portrayal of history, and particularly of black people, is not legitimate.
Griffith, D. W. Reply to the New York Globe. New York Globe 10 April 1915. Silva 77-79. Lang 168-69.
Griffith speaks out against the paper's claim that the film's exhibition is "for purely sordid reasons," with his rebuttal that great pains were taken in creating the film to contrast the bad with the good in an effort to portray the battle between right and wrong. Here, Griffith asserts that the film was meant to celebrate the black community, responding to his critics by saying, "If prejudiced witnesses do not see the message in this portion of the entire drama we are not to blame." Griffith also goes on to claim that 100,000 members of the New York City area openly applaud the artistic message presented in the film. Throughout his letter Griffith continues to elaborate on the support the film has garnered since its opening, noting the names of several members of the clergy as well as the film reviewer for the Globe itself.
Griffith, D. W. "Defense of the Birth of a Nation and Attack on the Sullivan Bill." Boston Journal 26 April 1915. Silva 88-90.
Griffith both defended his film and attacked a bill that had been introduced by Lewis R. Sullivan, then a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, which would make it a criminal offense to produce any "show or entertainment which tends to excite racial or religious prejudice or tends to a breach of the public peace." The crux of his argument was that the Sullivan Bill was "unwise to drag race or religion into the realm of censorship" and that if the bill was enacted that the courts would find themselves in "very deep waters."
Griffith, D. W. "The Motion Picture and the Witch Burners." Silva 96-99.
Responding to the immense criticism he received, Griffith constructs his article to shun critics seeking censorship not only over his own respective work, but also the cinematic medium as a whole. After first addressing the visual and temporal advantages of motion pictures as compared to the written word, Griffith makes the bold claim that film has been wrongfully persecuted by critics since its inception. The filmmaker states, "the motion picture is at present the witch of modern times, and at all times there must be witches to be burned." By allowing censorship to overrule this developing art form, Griffith fears that a lack of progress will be imminent in the future. While the filmmaker acknowledges the fact that every new entity must go through an "inquisitorial gate," he pleads for film's rite of passage to be less brutal than those of the arts preceding it. In doing so, the filmmaker calls for a strong resistance to cinematic censorship, avidly defending feature films for their unique ability to convey messages more effectively than all other modes of expression.
Griffith, D. W. "The Rise and Fall of Free Speech in America." Geduld 43-45.
Griffith charges censorship with "demanding of the picture makers a sugar-coated and false version of life's truths" and "seriously hampering the growth of the art." The motion picture "was seized by the powers of intolerance as an excuse for an assault on our liberties," an assault that hadn't occurred since the Sedition Law nullified in 1801. His main argument is that freedom of speech applies to film just as it does to printed press, and Griffith intends to be quoted as a free speech advocate. He prefaces this pamphlet by stating, "This book is not copyrighted. The press is invited to freely use its contents." This essay shows one aspect of Griffith's struggle to legitimize Birth of a Nation.
Griffith, D. W. "The Birth of a Nation."Sight and Sound 16.61 (1947): 32.
Peter Noble's article in the previous issue of Sight and Sound inspired this enraged response from D. W. Griffith and Seymour Stern. The duo collaborates retaliating against Noble's claim that the film is anti-Negro. Griffith has a small bit endorsing Stern, but Stern carries the weight of the argument, saying that Noble is entirely incorrect in stating that Griffith "is guilty of an anti-Negro bias, consciously maligned the Negro race, and depicted the Negroes and Negro politicians as monstrous caricatures." Using a combination of solid evidence and caustic sarcasm, Stern makes the point that "Mr. Noble read a little American history of the non-‘social', non-guesswork school, before he indulges in further attacks or propaganda on this subject."
Hackett, Francis. "Brotherly Love." New Republic 20 March 1915: 185. Silva 84-86. Lang 161-63.
Hackett's condemnation of the film is extremely visible. He is especially critical of Mr. Dixon's "personal temperament," which far exceeds those of others in the sense that he has a "lack of inhibition" and his depiction of the Negro in the moving picture is really a depiction of his own "malignity." Hackett hacks Dixon's script apart as he describes the obviously fake things that Negroes do in the movie. Negroes are inflamed with power and are abusing it constantly, something that was never seen during Reconstruction. Because of Dixon's likely personal portrayal of Negroes, they are destroyed by the Ku Klux Klan, which appears to be right in audience eyes after "Mr. Dixon has identified the Negro with cruelty, superstition, insolence, and lust." The "film is aggressively vicious and defamatory" because Dixon has dreamed up perversions of the Negro and used them to "flatter the white man and provoke hatred and contempt for the Negro."
Hammond, Michael. "'A Soul-stirring Appeal to Every Briton': The Reception of The Birth of a Nation in Britain (1915-1916)." Film History 11.3 (1999): 353-70.
Hammond notes that "There were, as far as I have been able to determine, no well publicized debates or objections to the film's racist representations, no attempts to censor or ban the film at local exhibitions and no public disturbances such as those which accompanied the film in the United States." He praises the film for its cinematic achievements and its magnificent score: "It leaves no doubt as to the genius of Mr. Griffith. The mere hugeness of this successful undertaking is almost stupefying." The most thrilling scenes of the film are "Those in which the ghostly garbed ghouls of the Ku Klux Klan ride madly to the rescue of the women and children of the South." "Beneath a surface of good acting and clever staging flows the spirit of liberty, pride of race, unselfish devotion to a cause," he says, that "gave the production a peculiar interest for an English audience in war-time, for many of the ideals which inspired the action of the play were, at the bottom, the ideals for which we are fighting now," clearly showing, for instance, "the regeneration of a nation, as England will be reborn when the war is over." The British civilians were extremely cut off from any "direct knowledge or experience" of the war that was going on at the time. Therefore, this film provided the people with an insight as to what was really happening on the battlefield. This film was also very relatable for the British people because they found a connection between the South and Germany, giving the British hope for a bright future.
Inscoe, John. "The Clansman on Stage and Screen: North Carolina Reacts." North Carolina Historical Review 64.2 (1987): 139-61.
Inscoe outlines the reception the stage production of the story, as well as that of Griffith's film. Dixon's work was motivated by racial prejudices, his inspiration supposedly watching Uncle Tom's Cabin, in which the "sympathetic portrayal of its black characters" greatly distressed him. Dixon was "determined to correct such misconceptions" and to tell the southerners' "true story." When the novel was adapted, by Dixon himself, for the stage, the predominant racist theme remained firmly intact. Dixon was pleasantly surprised by the southern audience's enthusiastic approval of his work. It was embraced as a reminder for the South of what its people had been through and as a correction for the North's misrepresentation of the past. Although the response was generally positive, some were "shocked by the play's theme and even more so by the emotional endorsements it had inspired." Any protests were argued with the denial of any fierce racism. In Griffith's film, the racist motivation was not so clear cut. Griffith himself denied any inspiration of the sort. It was moderated further with the broadening of its scope to the Civil War years along with Reconstruction. The audience's response to Griffith's film came mostly from the technical leaps it made. It was "not only the longest motion picture made up to that time but the most ambitious." Still, the film was protested for its controversial elements by the NAACP and other black groups. Inscoe estimates that these groups succeeded in editing about 170 blatantly racist scenes from the film, but in little else. For the most part, the film's audience "either ignored, minimized, or substantially altered" the racial issues of the film. Instead, they focused their attention on its anti-war appeal. Regardless of Dixon and Griffith's true intentions, the audience of the stage production of this story related to it because of their Negrophobia, whereas Griffith's audience was more concerned with the film's impressive technicalities and their own southern pride.
Kirby, Jack Temple. "D. W. Griffith's Racial Portraiture." Phylon 39.2 (1978): 118-27.
Kirby addresses all of the racial groups that Griffith portrays in his films -- Native Americans, Chinese migrants, and, most importantly, African Americans. Griffith's films as typical for the era, providing audiences with the stories they wanted, particularly those that focused on white supremacy and domination. Griffith is "a self-conscious Southerner and a frank racist," and Kirby provides thorough summaries of Griffith's films, highlighting his typical white perspective on the various racial groups. Ultimately, though he appreciates Griffith for his amazing directing skills, Kirby believes Griffith to be a sheer businessman who created mediocre films with predictable story lines.
Lang, Robert. "The Birth of a Nation: History, Ideology, Narrative Form." The Birth of a Nation: D.W. Griffith, Director. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1994. 3-24.
Lang addresses the ideas of historical interpretation, the forms of historical romance and melodrama, the division of the North and South, the themes of virtue and villainy, and the role of Abraham Lincoln in the Reconstruction of the South as seen in Griffith's Birth of a Nation and Dixon's The Clansmen. Lang suggests that Griffith's film was less about historical accuracy and more about providing an interpretation of events that romanticized them. Lang supports this claim through contention that films need a character –- they require emotion –- they do not necessarily require a realistic approach to historical events. He then goes on to discuss the representation of Dixon's The Clansmen as a historical romance. Lang questions the legitimacy of Dixon's work in relation to the form since the depiction of the Ku Klux Klan strays so far from historical fact. From here Lang sets out to establish Griffith's film as a melodrama. He does this through close examination of the subtitles used by Griffith throughout the picture. Lang also discusses Griffith's use of the division between the North and South as emotional fodder for the audience. He contends that Griffith uses this as a platform to depict the fight between good and evil. In further establishing this thematic battle, Lang refers to Griffith's use of "virtue" and "villainy." He proves his point by further breaking down the idea of North versus South, asserting that Griffith meant to show the complete segregation of the white and black races. Lang concludes his argument by examining Griffith's treatment of Abraham Lincoln as the savior of the South. He claims that Griffith's depiction of the Reconstruction era suggests that had Lincoln not died, the South would have turned out quite differently.
Lennig, Arthur. "Myth and Fact: The Reception of The Birth of a Nation." Film History ; 16.2 (2004): 117-41.
While Birth of a Nation has been the cause of much controversy since its debut in 1915, Lennig contends that the critics have exaggerated the level of sensationalism created by the film. He traces the reception of the film from its inception to some of its most recent critics in order to establish fact from fiction. From the very beginning of its promotion, Griffith and Dixon used gross exaggeration as a means to garner public interest in the film. Lennig documents the opening of the film in Riverside, California, indicating that it met with great success. He then goes on to discuss the films change in title -- from The Clansmen -- as well as its private viewing with the President and members of his staff. Here Lennig discusses the massive misrepresentation of Woodrow Wilson's famous words, "like writing history with lightning." In regard to protests brought on by groups such as the NAACP., their attempts at stopping the screening of the film did little more than to further arouse public interest in it. Lennig documents the NAACP's continued struggle in protesting the film, following their actions from California to New York and eventually Boston. The NAACP, and groups like it, felt that Griffith's movie encouraged racial prejudice and celebrated members of the Ku Klux Klan. This belief resulted in a media war in which critics of both sides began to speak about censorship. While there was certainly controversy surrounding the film, Lennig maintains that the majority of society did not understand why the film was receiving so much attention. Most people had no concept of the offensive portrayal of the black community presented in the film: "What now seems racist -- especially since the Civil Rights movement -- did not appear offensive or even unfair at the time. To most viewers it was more than teaching history with lightning."
Litwack, Leon F. "The Birth of a Nation." Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies. Ed. Marc C. Carnes. New York: Henry Holt, 1995. 136-41.
Litwak speaks to the effect that Birth of a Nation had on America's conception of black culture. The film "mesmerized and misled Americans," resulting in what he calls a "profoundly perverted history," but one that most Americans were quite ready to accept. Litwack provides an accurate depiction of race relations in the South up till the release of the film, painting a picture of the black people as a beaten down and tormented race, calling it "the most repressive and violent period." In regard to Griffith's treatment of the Reconstruction era and his depiction of the black community, Litwack says that "while exploiting every traditional racial stereotype, most of them passive and unthreatening, the film introduces the relatively new image of the Negro as aggressor. . . . No matter whether black people are depicted as evil or sympathetic, they are all dehumanized." Griffith's picture clearly celebrates the end of the Reconstruction era and the resurrection of the white race to power. To counteract the film's assertions, Litwack provides an unaffected accounting of the Reconstruction, depicting men and women of all races, and from either side of the Mason Dixon line, to be corrupting forces. Overall, Litwack contends that Birth of a Nation is responsible for the long established stereotypes still seen in this country today.
McEwan, Paul. "Racist Film: Teaching The Birth of a Nation." Cinema Journal 47.1 (2007): 98-101.
While McEwan applauds Birth as an effective method in teaching "ideological analysis of film, for understanding audience reception, and for considering the ways in which films can tell history," he also acknowledges the challenges in using the film in the classroom environment – racial discrimination and the three-hour time length. Preparing students for the racial tones depicted in the film is an important step, but he also forewarns against over-emphasizing the apparent racism in the film, as it can detract from the film's powerful aesthetic and its narrative significance. McEwan also believes that discussion of the change in the film's reception is a good method of introduction, as it shows how society's current condition plays a role in our perception. He considers the film's length the easiest challenge to contend with, offering suggestions as to using parts of the film effectively.
Merritt, Russell. "Dixon, Griffith, and the Southern Legend." Cinema Journal 12.1 (1972): 26-45.
Merritt explores the "Southern Legend" that had become the "historical basis" for the story created by Dixon and Griffith. He gives an overall very negative review of the movie, as well as debating its historical credibility. Merritt describes the "Southern Legend" utilized by many southern novelists and playwrights of the time. It was a falsified view of southern life as close-knit families with faithful, happy slaves and good values. Dixon and Griffith used this "Southern Legend" to show that the black race was threatening it. They vilified the blacks by portraying them as greedy barbarians who wanted to take over the South and dominate whites. Merritt also looks at the differences between Dixon's and Griffith's stories, and how a portion of the really racist material from the book had been cut out or toned down. The difference between Griffith and Dixon, however, is evident in the two parts of the film. The first part highlights family values and the role of women within the South. The audience sees a close-knit family in which the Southern woman is "the hardworking motor that keeps it [the family] running" but is also the "obedient and playful child, the passive and devoted mother." Griffith wanted to illustrate that any threat to the South was also a threat to the family. Additionally, he wanted to stress the horrors of war and depict the idea that the "Negro" was a loyal friend to the South. However, Part 2 takes a drastic turn, focusing on how the Anglo-Saxon race is being destroyed by an inferior group. This section is contributed mostly to Dixon, who wanted to portray the idea that blacks were a cause for national disunity and that the KKK was the only hope for the South. As a result of the outright racism, many African Americans began to riot. With the help of the NAACP and prominent African-American leaders of the time like W. E. B DuBois, blacks were able to successfully ban the showing of the film in Missouri, Ohio, and Maryland. African Americans began to demonstrate that they had a voice and could be
Merritt, Russell. "D.W. Griffith." Film Reference. http://www.filmreference.com/Directors-Fr-Ha/Griffith-D-W.html
Factual information and brief essay on the director.
Moore, John Hammond. "South Carolina's Reaction to the Photoplay The Birth of a Nation." Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association 33 (1963): 30-40.
The white citizens of South Carolina, specifically residents from Charlotte and Spartanburg, did not find this photoplay offensive in any way. On the other hand, northerners saw the film as a "false, distorted appeal to race hatred." Major newspaper companies from the South Carolina towns found no basis for the harsh criticism northerners gave. They fully embraced the racy views presented in this film. For example, when Gus chased down Flora Cameron, D.D. Wallace of the Wofford College faculty recognized this scene as a "horrible" event; however, he believed that this behavior from blacks was a normal occurrence. In no way did this collegiate faculty member depict The Birth of a Nation as racist. This was the common thought process for many southerners. For residents of South Carolina, the arrival of The Birth of a Nation brought a "carnival atmosphere" to town.
Noble, Peter. "A Note on an Idol." Sight and Sound 15.59 (1946): 81-82.
Noble uses this review to exploit the prejudice toward blacks that Griffith exposes in his film, arguing that blacks are represented unfairly and their actions are exaggerated. They are depicted as inferior to whites. Noble highlights the bias Griffith demonstrates in his film as leaning toward the South, which affects the illustration of true history in the film. Noble criticizes Griffith for his radical partiality and questions that the film is overwhelmingly historically inaccurate as a representation of society during the Civil War and Reconstruction era.
Parkhurst, Dr. Charles H. "The Birth of a Nation." Silva 102-3.
Parkhurst encourages people to see the movie in four ways: he praises how the film makes one feel, questions why people are objecting to the film, suggests it is an educational tool, and glorifies the beauty of the film. "Everyone who has seen it is saying something about it"; thus, you, an American citizen, should not be left out of a national conversation. The National Board of Censorship approved the film, so it cannot be objectionable. Furthermore, by trying to prohibit the viewing of the film, everyone now wants to see it. Birth of a Nation is a better tool for explaining the Civil War to children who do not have prior knowledge of the war, and if the negro is misrepresented, it is because the film is reflecting their actions after being freed not the present day negro. Finally, the battle scenes are hailed for their realism, the Lincoln assassination as acted beautifully, and the surrender between Lee and Grant dignified. The essay's value is its strength to sway public action into viewing the film.
Regester, Charlene. "The Cinematic Representation of Race in The Birth of a Nation: A Black Horror Film." Thomas Dixon Jr. and the Birth of Modern America. Ed. Michele K. Gillespie and Randal L. Hall. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2006.
Regester takes an analytical approach while addressing the history of the fear of miscegenation and its role in this film, believing that it was not made for the purpose of historical documentation but to frighten its viewers. Like a common horror film, there were monsters to terrify the film's characters. These monsters were black men, specifically Gus, a lower class man, and Silas Lynch, a higher class lieutenant. By including men of all levels of sophistication, Griffith left no group of African-American men safe from prejudice and judgment. When the film first premiered, its purpose of fear was so successful that the Ku Klux Klan became reestablished, rushing the southern streets. However, Regester does not put all blame on Griffith. According to Regester, the local newspapers were Griffith's equally guilty partners in crime. By publishing articles that celebrated the movie and its supposed historical accuracy, the white followers became even greater. All of the hype surrounding the film functioned to increase the popularity of the movie and therefore increased the fear of miscegenation as a result of watching it.
Robinson, Deric J. "In the Year 1915: D.W. Griffith and the Whitening of America." Social Identities 3.2 (1997): 161-92.
Robinson's review focuses on the parallels of Griffith's film to the history of America before, during, and after the film's premiere. He begins by explaining the significance of the film industry in teaching the audience about history—whether the portrayal is accurate or inaccurate. He cites several other critics in arguing that Griffith portrayed the black race comparably to their role in history, even if Griffith exposes their flaws rather harshly. Robinson explains Lincoln's role in the Civil War and Reconstruction era. Overall, this analysis shows the integration of history into Griffith's film and evaluates its validity, also offering outside analysis of the events before and after the Civil War and Reconstruction era.
Rogin, Michael. "'The sword became a flashing vision': D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation." Ronald Reagan, The Movie and Other Episodes in Political Demonology. Berkeley: U of California P, 1987. Lang 250-93.
Rogin contends that people must separate the blatant racism of Griffith's film from the powerful aesthetic that it creates. Rogin examines the relationship between form and content by comparison with "postbellum America, the social history of movies, and the history of Griffith's early films." He also examines the use of the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic element in the films, concluding with a look at what Griffith's life and career looked like after the release of Birth. One of the few to do so, Rogin depicts a man who failed to live up to his early successes and who turned to alcohol as means of coping with his battered reputation until his eventual death.
Salter, Richard. "The Birth of a Nation as American Myth." Journal of Religion and Film 8.2 (2004).
Oscar Micheaux's Within Our Gates was envisioned to counter the arguably racist Birth of a Nation in order to create a new reality in which blacks shared an equal part in white society.
Silva, Fred. "Introduction." Focus on The Birth of a Nation. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1971. 1-15.
Silva speaks out against Birth of a Nation, referring to the film as an "outmoded, biased account of Reconstruction, filled with unquestionably racist attitudes, but as a genuine cinematic achievement." While establishing his distaste regarding the film's content, Silva questions whether this may be separated from it in order to appreciate the beautiful aesthetic Griffith has created. Silva goes on to discuss Griffith's conception and creation of the film that would go on to be recognized as groundbreaking in the cinematic world. He addresses the outrage that the black community -- and many of its supporters -- felt in response to the film, discussing the NAACP's attempt to stop the picture from being shown, which resulted in the removal of "offensive" scenes. This did not stop the controversial response the film evoked from the American public. Silva discusses the demonstrations held in reaction to the racial prejudice depicted in the movie. He outlines the media war taking shape in the form of letters and reviews arguing that the blatant racism portrayed in the film detracted from its historical value. Silva substantiates this contention by providing various examples from the picture to corroborate the arguments of the protesters. He then gives equal treatment to Griffith's side of the argument, claiming that the director was shocked by the reception of the film as he had taken great pains to present a thoroughly researched product. Leaving the issue of accuracy aside, Silva commends Griffith on his attention to detail and his use of movement. He praises the aesthetic Griffith has created and the strength of emotion it conveys. Overall, Silva argues that regardless of the accuracy of his interpretation of his historical events, Griffith created a work of art that told a great story.
Simcovitch, Maxim. "The Impact of Griffith's Birth of a Nation on the Modern Ku Klux Klan." Journal of Popular Film 1.1 (1972): 45-54.
Simcovitch proposes two pivotal questions when considering the influence Griffith's film had in establishing the modern version of the Ku Klux Klan. He believes it is necessary to first look at how the film assisted "in bringing about the development" of the Klan and to consider the "circumstances and events surrounding the film" by the group. Simcovitch takes readers through the modern Klan's inception and their relationship with the film, along with its use within the group. He then discusses the film's use as a recruitment tool throughout much of the twentieth century. Although its use as propaganda slowed as the Klan adopted new methods of communication available in today's society, Simcovitch contends that the film still holds an important place in the organization.
Simmon, Scott. The Films of D. W. Griffith. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993.
Simmon refers to The Birth of a Nation as "one of the ugliest artifacts of American popular art." No film had gone through such a radical shift in opinion. Simmon claims that today's viewer is not moved by the film in the manner of its original audience; instead, audiences now see the piece for what it is without being swayed by their imaginations. Simmon examines the film in an effort to determine what power it possessed that it was able to so completely enamor a vast number of people in its day. In doing so he compares Birth to Griffith's other films, looking closely at his use of blackface in depicting the black community, feminine imagery and "woman's film," his emphasis on the role of family, and his use of Dixon's The Leopard's Spots and The Clansman, leading Simmon to believe that Griffith succeeded in making a bold film, but he failed to create a convincing argument that would stand the test of time.
Staiger, Janet. "The Birth of a Nation: Reconsidering Its Reception." Interpreting Films: Studies in the Historical Reception of American Cinema. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992. Lang 195-213.
Griffith's film is more than just racist propaganda. Staiger depicts the treatment of black people in the South between 1880 and 1920, establishing three Southern outlooks on black people: liberal, conservative, and radical conservative. Dixon's The Leopard's Spot and The Clansmen, along with Birth of a Nation are representative of the radical conservative mentality held by many Southerners. The NAACP attempted to stop the showing of Griffith's film as they believed it to be offensive and promoting race hatred. When the film opened, its staunchest critics labeled most of the film's gravest offenses as a misrepresentation of the Reconstruction era. Groups such as the NAACP attempted to diminish the effect the film had on the public's opinion of the black community. Staiger also focuses on the continued effect Birth of a Nation has had on society, providing arguments that link the film to the advent of propaganda in the first World War, the resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan, and tie its detractors to the Communist Party.
Stern, Seymour. "Griffith Not Anti-Negro." Sight and Sound 16.61 (1947): 32-35.
Peter Noble's article in the previous issue of Sight and Sound inspired this enraged response from D. W. Griffith and Seymour Stern. The duo collaborates retaliating against Noble's claim that the film is anti-Negro. Griffith has a small bit endorsing Stern, but Stern carries the weight of the argument, saying that Noble is entirely incorrect in stating that Griffith "is guilty of an anti-Negro bias, consciously maligned the Negro race, and depicted the Negroes and Negro politicians as monstrous caricatures." Using a combination of solid evidence and caustic sarcasm, Stern makes the point that "Mr. Noble read a little American history of the non-‘social', non-guesswork school, before he indulges in further attacks or propaganda on this subject."
Stokes, Melvyn. D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation: A History of "the most controversial motion picture of all time." New York: Oxford UP, 2007.
Stokes explores the many facets of director Griffith's controversial and what is now widely considered an overtly racist film. Stokes goes on to break the film down into its basic elements, including The Lost Cause, Lincoln as a Symbol of Reconciliation, The "Tragic Era" Legend of Reconstruction, The Ku Klux Klan, The Debate over "History," the appeal of Birth to contemporary audiences, the Issue of Miscegenation, The Reaction of Black Spectators to the film, all of which are explained in great detail in the book. Stokes provides the reader with a clear insight into the history and significance behind the film, as well as the contemporary reactions to the work by blacks and whites alike, and his observations are crucial for fully understanding the importance of this film in not only cinematic history but also in aspects of race relations still prevalent today.
Wallace, Michele Faith. "The Good Lynching and The Birth of a Nation: Discourses and Aesthetics of Jim Crow." Cinema Journal 43.1 (2003): 85-104.
Wallace attempts to determine to what extent films such as Birth affect racial understanding, examining why the myths perpetuated by the film still survive today. One such myth is that of the "black brute." Wallace discusses Griffith's "Gus," an aggressive character out to ravish all available white women, played by a white actor in blackface. She describes the portrayal of this character as "clownish," only further serving to cement the idea of the Confederate myth. In addressing this issue Wallace pays close attention to Dixon's warnings of the danger of intermarriage and the creation of a "mongrel race." Wallace also discusses the relationship between Jim Crow and white supremacists, such as the Ku Klux Klan, looking closely at Griffith's Klan as they prevented the black community from engaging in their right to vote.
White, Mimi. "The Birth of a Nation: History as Pretext." Enclitic 5.2/6, no. 1 (fall 1981/spring 1982): 17-24. Lang 214-24.
White suggests that Birth follows two lines: the United States during and after the Civil War and the story of the Camerons and the Stonemans. Griffith's intermingling of the families with historical events puts a tenuous strain on his claims of accuracy. The intertitles and citations are an effort to convince viewers of the historical accuracy portrayed in the film. In fact, history often takes a back seat to Griffith's depiction of family, using scenes of the Civil War as an example, since most of them feature the Cameron and Stoneman boys. The real war is the battle the whites of the South -- like the Cameron family -- face to resolve the injustices brought upon them by the Reconstruction. Overall, the safety of the familial structure is the main message of the film, rather than the creation of a movie based on historical fact.

See Also

Allen, Michael. Family Secrets: The Feature Films of D.W. Griffith. London: BFI Pub., 1999.

Anderson, Lindsay. "Birth of a Nation." Sight and Sound 22.3 (1953): 129-30.

"Fighting a Vicious Film—Protest against The Birth of a Nation." Pamphlet published by the Boston Branch of the NAACP, spring 1915.

Baldwin, James. The Devil Finds Work. London: Michael Joseph, 1976.

Barrett, Jenny. Shooting the Civil War: Cinema, History and American National Identity. New York: Distributed by Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Belton, John. "Birth of a Nation." Sight and Sound 45.2 (1976): 85-86.

Benshoff, Harry M., and Sean Griffin. America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality at the Movies . Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

Bernardi, Daniel, ed. The Birth of Whiteness: Race and the Emergence of U.S. Cinema. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1996.

"The Birth of a Nation: An Editorial." The Crisis 10 (May-June 1915): 33. Silva 64-66.

Brown, Karl. Adventures with D. W. Griffith. Ed. Kevin Brownlow. London: Secker and Warburg, 1973.

"Censorship: The Curse of a Nation." Boston Evening Transcript 23 April 1915. Silva 87-88.

Chadwick, Bruce. The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film. New York: Vintage Books, 2002.

Chandler, James. "The Historical Novel Goes to Hollywood: Scott, Griffith, and Film Epic Today." The Romantics and Us: Essays on Literature and Culture. Ed. Gene W. Ruoff. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1990. 237-73.

Combs, Richard. The Birth of a Nation." Monthly Film Bulletin 46, no. 544 (May 1979): 105-106.

Cook, Raymond A. Fire from the Flint: The Amazing Careers of Thomas Dixon. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, 1968.

Cook, Raymond A. Thomas Dixon. New York: Twayne, 1974.

Courtney, Susan. Hollywood Fantasies of Miscegenation: Spectacular Narratives of Gender and Race, 1903-1967. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005.

Cripps, Thomas. Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900-1942. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.

Cripps, Thomas. "The Making of The Birth of Race: The Emerging Politics of Identity in Silent Movies." The Birth of Whiteness. Ed. Daniel Bernardi. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1996. 38-55.

Cuniberti, John. "The Birth of a Nation": A Formal Shot-by-Shot Analysis Together with Microfiche. Woodbridge: Research Publications, 1979.

Davis, Natalie Zemon. Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000.

Dixon, Thomas, Jr. The Leopard's Spots: A Romance of the White Man's Burden. London: Doubleday, Page, 1902.

Dixon, Thomas, Jr. The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1905.

Everett, Anna. Returning the Gaze: A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism, 1909-1949. Durham: Duke UP, 2001.

Everson, William K. American Silent Film. New York: Oxford UP, 1978.

Fighting a Vicious Film: Protest against The Birth of a Nation. Ed. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Boston: Boston Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1915.

Finch, Minnie. The NAACP: Its Fight for Justice. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1981.

Fleener-Marzec, Nickieann. D. W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation": Controversy, Suppression, and the First Amendment as It Applies to Filmic Expression, 1915-1973. Durham: Duke UP, 2001.

Gaines, Jane. "The Birth of a Nation and Within Our Gates: Two Tales of the American South." Dixie Debates: Perspectives on Southern Culture Ed. Richard H. King and Helen Taylor. London: Pluto Press, 1996. 177-92.

Gallagher, Gary W. Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood & Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2008.

Geduld, Harry M., ed. Focus on D. W. Griffith. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1971.

Gillespie, Michele K., and Randal L. Hall, eds. Thomas Dixon Jr. and the Birth of Modern America. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2006.

Grazia, Edward de, and Roger K. Newman. Banned Films: Movies, Censors, and the First Amendment. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1982.

Green, J. Roland. "Micheaux v. Griffith." Griffithiana 60-61 (1997): 32-49.

Griffith, D. W. "The Future of the Two-Dollar Movie." Silva 99-101.

Guerrero, Ed. Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1993.

Henderson, Robert M. D.W. Griffith: His Life and Work. New York: Oxford UP, 1972.

hooks, bell. "The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators." Black American Cinema . Ed. Manthia Diawara. London: Routledge, 1993. 288-302.

Huff, Theodore. A Shot Analysis of D. W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation." New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1961.

Hurwitz, Michael R. D. W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation": The Film that Transformed America. North Charleston: BookSurge, 2006.

Johnson, Rev. W. Bishop. The Birth of a Nation: A Monumental Slander of American History; the Negro and the Civil War. Washington, 1916.

Johnston, Ruth D. "The Construction of Whiteness in The Birth of a Nation and The Jazz Singer. Quarterly Review of Film and Video 28.5 (2011): 382-89.

Jozajtis, Kris. "American Civil Religion, The Lost Cause, and D. W. Griffith: The Birth of a Nation Revisited." Scope: An Online Journal of Film Studies (December 2002).

Jozajtis, Kris. "'The Eyes of All People Are Upon Us': American Civil Religion and the Birth of Hollywood." Representing Religion in World Cinema: Filmmaking, Myth-making, Culture Making. Ed. S. Brent Plate. London: Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2003. 239-61.

Jungquist, Hazel. "Viewing D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation: A First Hand Account." Ed. Robert K. Klepper. Classic Images no. 245 (November 1995): 36-37.

Kagan, Norman. "Two Classic War Films of the Silent Era: The Birth of a Nation and Shoulder Arms." Film and History 4.3 (1974): 1-5, 18.

Lang, Robert. American Film Melodrama: Griffith, Vidor, Minnelli. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1989.

Lang, Robert. The Birth of a Nation: D.W. Griffith, Director. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1994.

Lorence, James. "Cultural History through a Cloudy Lens: The Birth of a Nation (1915) and the Racial Climate of Progressive America." Screening America: United States History through Film since 1900. New York: Pearson, 2006.

McEwan, Paul. Lawyers, Bibliographies, and the Klan: Griffith's Resources in the Censorship Battle over The Birth of a Nation in Ohio." Film History: An International Journal 20.3 (2008): 357-66.

Miller, James A. "The Case of Early Black Cinema." "Race and Cultural Production: Responses to The Birth of a Nation." Ed. Linda Steiner. Critical Studies in Mass Communication 10.2 (1993): 181-84.

Pitcher, Conrad. "D. W. Griffith's Controversial Film, The Birth of a Nation." OAH Magazine of History Spring 1999: 50-55.

Rocchio, Vincent F. Reel Racism: Confronting Hollywood's Construction of Afro-American Culture. Boulder: Westview Press, 2000.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Rylance, David. "Breech Birth: The Receptions to D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation." Australasian Journal of American Studies 24.2 (2005): 1-20.

Sachsman, David B. Memory and Myth: The Civil War in Fiction and Film from Uncle Tom's Cabin to Cold Mountain. West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 2007.

Schickel, Richard. D.W. Griffith: An American Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984.

Schickel, Richard. D. W. Griffith and the Birth of Film. London: Pavilion, 1984.

Silva, Fred, ed. Focus on The Birth of a Nation. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1971.

Slide, Anthony, ed. Selected Film Criticism, 1912-1920. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1982.

Slide, Anthony. American Racist: The Life and Films of Thomas Dixon. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 2004.

Sorlin, Pierre. "The American Civil War." The Film in History: Restaging the Past. Totowa: Barnes and Noble, 1980. 83-115.

Steiner, Linda, ed. "Race and Cultural Production: Responses to The Birth of a Nation." Critical Studies in Mass Communication 10.2 (1993): 179-97.

Stokes, Melvyn. "Race, Nationality and Citizenship: The Case of The Birth of a Nation." Federalism, Citizenship, and Collective Identities in U.S. History. Ed. Cornelis van Minnen and Sylvia L. Hilton. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2000. 107-19.

Usai, Paulo Cherchi, ed. The Griffith Project: Vol. 8, Films Produced in 1914-15. London: British Film Institute/Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, 2004.

Williams, Linda. Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001.

Wills, Brian Steel. Gone with the Glory: The Civil War in Cinema. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield: 2007.

Online Resources

D. W. Griffith and Walter Huston: Prelude to Birth of a Nation (1930) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghajmGg0BVg
A "chat" between Huston and Griffith, in which Griffith admits to his grounding in the South and the Lost Cause.
Dirks, Tom. Birth of a Nation (1915). http://www.filmsite.org/birt.html
Overview and lush, detailed summary of the film with lots of quoting.
Merritt, Russell. "D.W. Griffith." Film Reference. http://www.filmreference.com/Directors-Fr-Ha/Griffith-D-W.html
Factual information and brief essay on the director.
Steinle, John. "D.W. Griffith." Senses of Cinema. http://sensesofcinema.com/2006/great-directors/griffith/
Overview essay and filmography.