1922 December 8

“Birth of a Nation” Denied Permit in New York City

 

D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation is one of the most important and controversial films in American movie history. It is important in the development of film as an art form because of its many innovations in cinematography and narrative storytelling techniques. The film was and still is controversial because it embraced the racist view of the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War, portraying African-Americans as savages and fools, while presenting the Ku Klux Klan as heroes. The film was protested by civil rights activists when it opened in New York City on March 3, 1915, but it was not banned at that time. On this day, New York City officials yielded to the protests and denied the film a permit.

Efforts to ban Birth of a Nation continued for decades. It was also the first motion picture ever viewed by President Woodrow Wilson, in a special screening at the White House on February 18, 1915. The racist interpretation of Reconstruction was consistent with his own views, which were reflected in his writings on American history.

See Birth of a Nation on DVD. The Kino edition (2002) includes documents on attempts to censor the movie from the 1920s to the 1930s.

Learn more about the filmhttp://www.filmsite.org/birt.html

Read the novel on which the film is based: Thomas Dixon, The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan

Watch one of the KKK scenes from the movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k57rt58vUYw

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