“The Birth of a Nation” remains the elephant in the room for film history classes, which can’t very well ignore its significance. Meanwhile, the groundswell in 1915 to censor, ban and protest the movie was, and still is, a deeply uncomfortable litmus test for many progressives who decry bigotry, but are also pro-free expression under any and all circumstances.
In this case, the side claiming First Amendment rights was a wealthy film company on behalf of a hate-mongering film — while the side demanding censorship was a powerless, historically victimized minority that had good reason to worry the film would inspire violence against it.
Indeed, the worst fears of William Monroe Trotter, the editor whose crusading Boston-based African-American paper, The Guardian, led the charge against the film, were realized. On Nov. 25, 1915, the Ku Klux Klan — until then nearly extinct — came roaring back to life at Stone Mountain, Ga., citing “The Birth of a Nation” as inspiration. By 1926, the new Klan claimed 5 million members. http://www.northjers...s-100-1.1266900
The Birth of a Nation is three hours of racist propaganda — starting with the Civil War and ending with the Ku Klux Klan riding in to save the South from black rule during the Reconstruction era.
"[Griffith] portrayed the emancipated slaves as heathens, as unworthy of being free, as uncivilized, as primarily concerned with passing laws so they could marry white women and prey on them," Dick Lehr, author of The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America's Civil War. http://www.npr.org/b...rth-of-a-nation
Surprise! Surprise! What do you know, the movie shattered box office records for its day! Making millions in profit during a time when most movies made thousands.