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The most successful and artistically advanced film of its time, The Birth of a Nation has also sparked protests, riots, and divisiveness since its first release. The film tells the story of the Civil War and its aftermath, as seen through the eyes of two families. The Stonemans hail from the North, the Camerons from the South. When war breaks out, the Stonemans cast their lot with the Union, while the Camerons are loyal to Dixie. After the war, Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall), distressed that his beloved south is now under the rule of blacks and carpetbaggers, organizes several like-minded Southerners into a secret vigilante group called the Ku Klux Klan. When Cameron's beloved younger sister Flora (Mae Marsh) leaps to her death rather than surrender to the lustful advances of renegade slave Gus (Walter Long), the Klan wages war on the new Northern-inspired government and ultimately restores "order" to the South. In the original prints, Griffith suggested that the black population be shipped to Liberia, citing Abraham Lincoln as the inspiration for this ethnic cleansing. Showings of Birth of a Nation were picketed and boycotted from the start, and as recently as 1995, Turner Classic Movies cancelled a showing of a restored print in the wake of the racial tensions around the O.J. Simpson trial verdict. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
"The Making of 'The Birth of a Nation'" 1992 24 minutes produced by David Shepard
Filmed prologue to "The Birth of a Nation" 1930 6 minutes featuring D.W. Griffith and Walter Huston
Civil War Shorts directed by D.W. Griffith:
In the Border States 1910 16 min.,
The House With Closed Shutters 1910 17 min.,
The Fugitive 1910
His Trust 1910 14 min. courtesy of David Shepard; musical setting compiled and arranged by Robert Israel performed by the Biograph Quartet,
His Trust Fulfilled 1910 11 min.,
Swords and Hearts 1911 16 min.,
The Battle 1911 17 min.
New York vs. "The Birth of a Nation": an archive of information documenting the battles over the film's 1922 re-release, including protests by the N.A.A.C.P., transcripts of meetings, legal documents, newspaper articles and a montage of scenes ordered cut by the New York Censor Board
Excerpts from a "Birth of a Nation" souvenir book (1915) and several original programs
Action and Adventure,Drama
Year of Release
Side #1 -- The Birth of a Nation, 1. Opening Titles [2:04], 2. The Stonemans in Repose [2:23], 3. With the Camerons [10:20], 4. The Gathering Storm [6:23], 5. A Call to March, to Dance [11:12], 6. Scarred by War [6:59], 7. War's Bitter Sacrifice [6:53], 8. The Last Grey Days [12:14], 9. A New Life [13:53], 10. The Homecoming [6:11], 11. The Fated Night [7:55], 12. Restoration Begins [7:10], 13. Sowing Discontent [8:20], 14. The Love Strain [6:03], 15. Election Results [8:52], 16. The Grim Reaping [3:45], 17. A White Sheet [7:38], 18. Little Sister's Fate [12:10], 19. "Justice" for Gus [7:32], 20. Blood Vows [12:37], 21. Elsie's New Suitor [5:52], 22. The Clan Rides Out [10:14], 23. Siege on a Cabin [6:45], 24. War No More [3:24]