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The Birth of a Nation

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Annika Rettstadt

on 4 December 2010

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Transcript of The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation Brainstorming 1 Proposal 2 Final Research Project 3 Brief Research: Idea for Proposal: First Project Ideas: I wanted to do something that dealt with the racial conflict during the 1920's. Also, I was interested in the Ku Klux Klan, and their political, social, and religious beliefs. Since these two topics blended quite well, I decided to expand.
I was also interested in how the KKK influenced white beliefs and disrupted others (such as their purposeful retaliation against African Americans and other minorities - lynching, their traditional ceremony of burning the cross, parades, etc.)
"The Birth of a Nation" briefly came into play, because I knew that it had some impact on the KKK's activity. The film was a love story which took place during the Civil War; director D.W. Griffith made the film in 1915 to reignite the feelings which took place during the mid-19th century (mainly, racism and hatred towards minorities in America) Before beginning research, I was only aware of common facts about the KKK in the 1920's. I soon discovered that the Klan happened to be rebirthed from their sudden elimination in the late 1800's; may claim that this was because of "The Birth of a Nation," because of the common ideals drawn from the film and the Klan.
The KKK recreated a lot of scenes from "The Birth of a Nation," such as the lynching of African American soldiers. They also enforced D.W. Griffith's idea that all African Americans should return to Africa, where they belong. I decided that from this point, I wanted to prove that "The Birth of a Nation" was the backbone behind racial acts (coming mainly from the KKK), and created unnecessary conflict in the 1920's. I still needed to further my research on how much racism was an issue before "The Birth of a Nation" was released.
Also, it was important for me to find information that talked about the NAACP, and whether or not it grew significantly in response to the film. If it did, I could argue that "The Birth of a Nation" had a positive outcome, given the significance of the NAACP to many historical events that followed. Started by discussing the background information of "The Birth of a Nation;" (basic plot line, depiction of African Americans, use of blackface - a type of make up that would transform whites into black characters, and the idolization of the KKK)
Soon, I went into detail by talking about the KKK's reuniting in the early 20th century, after a couple forms of media ("The Birth of a Nation," along with the book, "The Clansman" by Thomas Dixon) encouraged the resurgence of their beliefs.
The majority of my paper focused on the film's impact on a reinvigorated Ku Klux Klan on African Americans, along with other targeted minorities.
Research Question: How did "The Birth of a Nation" impact racism in the 1920's? Draft Further Research 1. Outline of "The Birth of a Nation," and Argument - I felt that it was necessary for the reader to have a brief understanding of the film in order to comprehend my thesis. I argued that the film empowered the newly formed NAACP, which sustained African Americans throughout difficult periods in history when the movement for equality of the races most needed support. This was an important topic for me because it was something that wasn't discussed as much as the negative impacts of "The Birth of a Nation." 2. White/KKK Response - To come full circle in this paper, I needed to explain all responses as a result of the film. Whites had a much different take on the film from African Americans, considering it an epic creation. This was most likely because of the amount of advertising (advanced ticket sales, huge billboards, horsemen dressed in Klan outfits) that was put into this film. The advanced technology may have also been a large factor as to why the white audience responded differently (close-ups, night photography, and tracking shots). The KKK had a heightened reaction compared to whites; they revived themselves from years of inactivity, and decided to disrupt the lives of minorities, mainly African Americans. Lynchings, along with other forms of torture, were used in order to recreate certain scenes from "The Birth of a Nation." 3. NAACP/African American Response - Finally, I would get to the heart of my paper, by discussing how the film impacted the African American community. First, I analyzed their view on the film's message; they felt that D.W. Griffith depicted their fellow race as a vicious community. As a result of their unhappy response to the generally popular film, riots/protests broke out, creating utter chaos in the nation's largest cities. The NAACP demanded the film to be banned in certain cities. They did make some progress, eventually getting the film's director to omit certain offensive scenes. Because of the amount of publicity that the NAACP was getting for their efforts, this helped them grow stronger, and stay in existance throughout the nation's most difficult times (in terms of conflicts with equality, such as The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's). Consisted of three different portions: "Blackface"was commonly used throughout the film to transform white actors to black characters, such as the one above. An ad for the KKK from the early 1920's. The opening picture of the film, "The Birth of a Nation." The NAACP gathers at its headquarters in the 1920's. As you can see, its members ranged from teenagers to adults. Ku Klux Klan parades, shown in the photo above, were quite common in the early 20th century. D.W. Griffith, director of "The Birth of a Nation" Annika Rettstadt
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