Welcome to Week 6 of History 1302. I'm Professor Michael Dobe, your instructor for this course. This week's History Blog is on the topic of "D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation: The Romance of Redemption" A link to the Week 6 Blog is provided in the Week 6 Folder located in the Blackboard Course Content Area. The use of films to portray the American past has a long history of its own. One of the earliest films to interpret the American past for a broad American audience was a silent film made in 1915. This film portrayed the history of the American Civil War and Reconstruction in a way that did two things: It attempted to explain why Jim Crow Segregation was a good thing and it also tried to convince viewers that the Ku Klux Klan was a heroic organization -- responsible for saving the South from the horrors of "black rule." In this film, the white hooded clansmen are the "redeemers" of the South. Many white Americans -- North and South -- were convinced that this cinematic vision of American History was indeed accurate. What may surprise you is that one of those Americans was President Woodrow Wilson. Looking backwards from 1915 fifty years into the past from 1915, President Wilson ( a former college professor and president) endorsed the film's accuracy when it was screened in the White House. How could a "progressive" like Wilson, who would fight so hard at the end of WWI for the self-determination of peoples in far away lands endorse such a racially demeaning historical interpretation of African Americans in his own country? This week we will watch and discuss selections from The Birth of a Nation. The entire film is almost and hour long and can be viewed in its entirety at the Internet Archive if you wish to do so. When you have finished viewing the film clips, I would like you to post to the blog and let people know how you believe the personal aspects of this plot interact with the national drama of Reconstruction and Redemption. What for instance, do we make of the way women (black and white) are portrayed in the film? Is this just incidental, or is the romance of redemption (the Camerons and the Stonemans intermarrying North and South) a key element to the political story as well?
D.W. Griffith's Birth of a
Nation: The Romance of
HIST 1302: US History Survey,
The Camerons and Stonemans During
In the following clip, what happens when the Black Soldiers
reach the Camerons' home? Who saves the Cameron women
from these armed slaves?
How does the film demonstrate the equality of the
Northern and Southern sacrifice in the war?
Assassination of Lincoln and Start of
How does the film portray Congressional Reconstruction?
How does the film explain the birth of the Ku Klux Klan?
What role does the "Carpetbagger" Stoneman play?
The Stoneman-Cameron Romance
Continues Against Backdrop of Black
How do the former slaves handle their enfranchisement
What role does the romance between the sons and
daughters of the Camerons and the Stonemans play? Does
the romantic sub-plot have a point?
Origin of the Ku Klux Klan
Where does Col. Cameron get the idea for the white sheets?
How does the rift between Col. Cameron and his (Northern)
lover over Klan membership reflect the national drama of the
The Arrest of Dr. Cameron
When Klan robes are found in the Cameron house by a spy for
the "carpetbagger" government, who comes to Dr. Cameron's
aide after his arrest?
How is he freed and where do his liberators seek refuge?