A report on The Birth of a Nation

Theatrical release poster
Film's portrayal of John Wilkes Booth assassinating President Abraham Lincoln
Hooded Klansmen catch Gus, portrayed in blackface by white actor Walter Long.
Raoul Walsh as John Wilkes Booth
Griffith (left) on the set of The Birth of a Nation with actor Henry Walthall (center) and others
Sheet music for "The Perfect Song", one of the themes Breil composed for the film.
Poster and advertisement of The Birth of a Nation on the second week of release. It includes preview images from the film.
A quote from Woodrow Wilson's History of the American People is included in the film's intertitles.
A 1916 newspaper advertisement announcing the film's screening in El Paso, Texas
Newspaper editor and activist William Monroe Trotter led a demonstration against the film, which resulted in a riot.
The scene where Flora flees into the forest (pictured) pursued by the black character Gus, moved a viewer to fire shots at the screen to help her.
Roger Ebert deemed The Birth of a Nation "a great film that argues for evil".
The character of Congressman Stoneman in the film is similar to Thaddeus Stevens (pictured).

1915 American silent epic drama film directed by D. W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish.

- The Birth of a Nation
Theatrical release poster

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Theatrical poster

Intolerance (film)

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1916 epic silent film directed by D. W. Griffith.

1916 epic silent film directed by D. W. Griffith.

Theatrical poster
Lillian Gish as "Eternal Motherhood"
Mae Marsh fights against the Uplifters
The Mercenary Soldier (Allan Sears) kills Brown Eyes (Margery Wilson)
Alfred Paget as Prince Belshazzar
Howard Gaye as the Nazarene: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
Still of Belshazzar's feast in the central courtyard of Babylon
Production image showing (from left) Griffith, cameraman G. W. "Billy" Bitzer behind Pathé camera, Dorothy Gish watching from behind him, Karl Brown holding script, and Miriam Cooper in profile

Griffith chose to explore the theme of intolerance partly in response to his previous film The Birth of a Nation (1915) being derided by the NAACP and others for perpetuating and supporting racial stereotypes and glorifying the Ku Klux Klan.

Griffith in 1922

D. W. Griffith

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American film director.

American film director.

Griffith in 1922
Griffith, c. 1907
Griffith on the set of The Birth of a Nation (1915) with actor Henry B. Walthall and others
Left to right: Griffith, cameraman Billy Bitzer (behind Pathé camera), Dorothy Gish (watching from behind Bitzer), Karl Brown (keeping script) and Miriam Cooper (in profile) in a production still for Intolerance (1916)
The first million-dollar partners: Fairbanks, Pickford, Chaplin and Griffith
"Belshazzar's feast", one of the massive film sets in Intolerance (1916)
United Artists founders Griffith, Pickford, Chaplin and Fairbanks sign their contract for the cameras in 1919.
Stamp issued by the United States Postal Service in 1975 to commemorate the centennial of Griffith's birth
Griffith's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6535 Hollywood Blvd.

Griffith is known to modern audiences primarily for directing the film The Birth of a Nation (1915).

Thomas Dixon Jr.

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American white supremacist, Baptist minister, politician, lawyer, lecturer, novelist, playwright, and filmmaker.

American white supremacist, Baptist minister, politician, lawyer, lecturer, novelist, playwright, and filmmaker.

Frontispiece to the first edition of Dixon's The Clansman.
Dixon and his first wife Harriet

Film director D. W. Griffith adapted The Clansman for the screen in The Birth of a Nation (1915).

Depiction of Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina in 1870, based on a photograph taken under the supervision of a federal officer who seized Klan costumes

Ku Klux Klan

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American white supremacist, right-wing terrorist, and hate group whose primary targets are African Americans, Jews, Latinos, Asian Americans, Catholics, and Native Americans as well as immigrants, leftists, homosexuals, Muslims, and atheists.

American white supremacist, right-wing terrorist, and hate group whose primary targets are African Americans, Jews, Latinos, Asian Americans, Catholics, and Native Americans as well as immigrants, leftists, homosexuals, Muslims, and atheists.

Depiction of Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina in 1870, based on a photograph taken under the supervision of a federal officer who seized Klan costumes
KKK rally near Chicago in the 1920s
The "Ku Klux Number" of Judge, August 16, 1924
A cartoon threatening that the KKK will lynch scalawags (left) and carpetbaggers (right) on March 4, 1869, the day President Grant takes office. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Independent Monitor, September 1, 1868. A full-scale scholarly history analyzes the cartoonː Guy W. Hubbs, Searching for Freedom after the Civil War: Klansman, Carpetbagger, Scalawag, and Freedman (2015).
This Frank Bellew cartoon links the Democratic Party with secession and the Confederate cause.
Nathan Bedford Forrest
Three Ku Klux Klan members arrested in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, September 1871, for the attempted murder of an entire family
George W. Ashburn was assassinated for his pro-black sentiments.
Garb and weapons of the Ku Klux Klan in Southern Illinois, as posed for Joseph A. Dacus of the Missouri Republican, in August 1875
Benjamin Franklin Butler wrote the Civil Rights Act of 1871.
Gov. William Holden of North Carolina
Frontispiece to the first edition of Dixon's The Clansman, by Arthur I. Keller
"The Fiery Cross of old Scotland's hills!" Illustration from the first edition of The Clansman, by Arthur I. Keller. Note figures in background.
Movie poster for The Birth of a Nation, which has been widely credited with inspiring the 20th-century revival of the Ku Klux Klan.
Three Ku Klux Klan members at a 1922 parade
In this 1926 cartoon, the Ku Klux Klan chases the Catholic Church, personified by St. Patrick, from the shores of America. Among the "snakes" are various supposed negative attributes of the Church, including superstition, the union of church and state, control of public schools, and intolerance.
"The End" Referring to the end of Catholic influence in the US. Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty 1926
Cross burning was introduced by William J. Simmons, the founder of the second Klan in 1915.
Sheet music to "We Are All Loyal Klansmen", 1923
Two children wearing Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods stand on either side of Samuel Green, a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon, at Stone Mountain, Georgia, on July 24, 1948.
D. C. Stephenson, Grand Dragon of the Indiana Klan. His conviction in 1925 for the murder of Madge Oberholtzer, a white schoolteacher, led to the decline of the Indiana Klan.
Ku Klux Klan members march down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., in 1928
Ku Klux Klan parade in Washington, D.C., September 13, 1926
Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner were three civil rights workers abducted and murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Violence at a Klan march in Mobile, Alabama, 1977
Blood Drop Cross
Triangular Klan symbol
Cross burning in Lumberton, North Carolina (1958)

Taking inspiration from D. W. Griffith's 1915 silent film The Birth of a Nation, which mythologized the founding of the first Klan, it employed marketing techniques and a popular fraternal organization structure.

The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan

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Novel published in 1905, the second work in the Ku Klux Klan trilogy by Thomas Dixon Jr. .

Novel published in 1905, the second work in the Ku Klux Klan trilogy by Thomas Dixon Jr. .

Frontispiece to the first edition of Dixon's The Clansman, by Arthur I. Keller.

The novel was adapted as a play and a film, first by the author as a highly successful play entitled The Clansman (1905), and a decade later by D. W. Griffith in the 1915 movie The Birth of a Nation.

Gish in 1921

Lillian Gish

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American actress, director and screenwriter.

American actress, director and screenwriter.

Gish in 1921
1921 publicity photo
Dorothy and Lillian Gish with actress Helen Ray, their leading lady in Her First False Step (1903)
Gish in Jed Harris's Broadway production of Uncle Vanya, 1930
Gish at 80 years of age, 1973
Lillian and her sister Dorothy, 1921
Gish posed as Elaine of Astolat in Way Down East

This included her leading role in the highest-grossing film of the silent era, Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915).

Harron in 1918

Robert Harron

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American motion picture actor of the early silent film era.

American motion picture actor of the early silent film era.

Harron in 1918
Discussing script on location for Sunshine Alley (1917); from left: director John W. Noble, Harron, actress Mae Marsh, and cameraman George W. Hill

Although he acted in over 200 films, he is possibly best recalled for his roles in the D.W. Griffith directed films The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916).

Stars of the Photoplay, 1916

Miriam Cooper

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Stars of the Photoplay, 1916
Photoplay Magazine, 1915
Film still (left to right) of Monte Blue, Cooper, and Hobart Bosworth in costume for Betrayed (1917)
Still from The Woman and the Law (1918)

Miriam Cooper (born Marian Cooper; November 7, 1891 – April 12, 1976) was a silent film actress who is best known for her work in early film including The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance for D. W. Griffith and The Honor System and Evangeline for her husband Raoul Walsh.

A St. Louis Globe-Democrat article concerning dedication of a Jackson, Mississippi, monument to Confederate soldiers in June 1891 mentions the "Lost Cause" in its headline.

Lost Cause of the Confederacy

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American pseudohistorical negationist mythology that claims the cause of the Confederate States during the American Civil War was just, heroic, and not centered on slavery.

American pseudohistorical negationist mythology that claims the cause of the Confederate States during the American Civil War was just, heroic, and not centered on slavery.

A St. Louis Globe-Democrat article concerning dedication of a Jackson, Mississippi, monument to Confederate soldiers in June 1891 mentions the "Lost Cause" in its headline.
Custis Lee (1832–1913) on horseback in front of the Jefferson Davis Memorial in Richmond, Virginia on June 3, 1907, reviewing Confederate Reunion Parade
Members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy around a Confederate monument in Lakeland, Florida, 1915
Henry Mosler completed his best known painting, The Lost Cause, three years after the end of the Civil War.
Former flag of Mississippi, incorporating the Confederate battle flag design. It was adopted in 1894 after the state's so-called "redemption", and relinquished in 2020 during the George Floyd protests.
Flag of Georgia (1956–2001)
The United Daughters of the Confederacy helped promulgate the Lost Cause's ideology through the construction of numerous memorials, such as this one in Tennessee.
The Lost Cause ideology includes fallacies about the relationships between slaves and their masters.
Frontispiece to the first edition of Dixon's The Clansman, by Arthur I. Keller.

He enjoyed a "handsome income" from lectures and royalties on his novels, especially from his share of The Birth of a Nation.

A still from the 1921 Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, one of the highest-grossing silent films.

Silent film

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Film with no synchronized recorded sound .

Film with no synchronized recorded sound .

A still from the 1921 Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, one of the highest-grossing silent films.
Charlie Chaplin, widely acclaimed as one of the most iconic actors of the silent era, c. undefined 1919
The Horse in Motion, animated from a plate by Eadweard Muybridge, made with an array of cameras set up along a racetrack
Roundhay Garden Scene, which has a running time of just over two seconds, was filmed in 1888. It is believed to be the world's earliest surviving motion-picture film. The elderly lady in black is Sarah Whitley, the mother-in-law of filmmaker Louis Le Prince; she died ten days after this scene was filmed.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) used stylized inter-titles.
Lillian Gish, the "First Lady of the American Cinema", was a leading star in the silent era with one of the longest careers—1912 to 1987.
Cinématographe Lumière at the Institut Lumière, France. Such cameras had no audio recording devices built into the cameras.
A scene from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari starring Friedrich Feher—an example of an amber-tinted film
Price for a hand-colored print of Ben Hur in 1908
A still from Saved from the Titanic (1912), which featured survivors of the disaster. It is now among those considered a lost film.
Lon Chaney (active 1913-1930) was one of the most talented spinet character actors of all time. His unique ability to transform into the most physically grotesque characters earned him the universal name, “Man of a Thousand Faces”.

Starting with the mostly original score composed by Joseph Carl Breil for D. W. Griffith's epic The Birth of a Nation (1915), it became relatively common for the biggest-budgeted films to arrive at the exhibiting theater with original, specially composed scores.