Learning about History from a Controversial Film

         Understanding the history of the world is important. Without understanding history and being able to reflect on the importance of our history, America would not be able to grow as a country. Through historical films, America can watch and learn the significance of a growing country. Through the controversial film Birth of a Nation, students may reflect on the importance of history, and actually enjoy learning about it.

         Birth of the Nation, directed in 1915 by D.W. Griffith, is a significant film because of historical aspect in which it portrays. Birth of a Nation includes ideas about history throughout the film--ideas of history in which this film touches on is lifestyles during the early 1900’s, racism, and slavery. The customs of society and principles in which individuals had during this time were portrayed in this film. I enjoy learning about history; and, as I watched this film, I found myself more interested in the historical aspect and changes that have been in America. This film includes controversial ideas of the Ku Klux Klan and way of life in which black and white individuals lived during this time. Not only is the Ku Klux Klan a part of the controversial movie; but also the director had white actors paint their faces black, which made this film an even more interesting and controversial film. The idea of white characters painting their faces black is interesting and helped to add character to the film. Birth of a Nation reflects on the 1900’s and the way of life lived during this time period. This film was based on Thomas Dixon’s film, The Clansman. Racism has always been an interesting topic to me because the ideas of racism have changed so greatly over the years and has been a topic in which America has faced problems with since the beginning of time, up until today.

         Through historical films in which students view, students can learn material and understand our history after watching films. After watching Birth of a Nation, I felt that I understood the idea of racism better and the way of life during the early 1900’s. I also learned more about the Ku Klux Klan and the way in which they dressed and the activities in which this group of individuals participated in during this historical time period. After watching Birth of a Nation, students should be more knowledgeable and understanding of our country and the past in which America has had.

         Another historical aspect in which Birth of a Nation touched on was the idea of women and what they were subject to during this time period. After watching the film, students can reflect on their lifestyles today and realize the great difference in America, and how it has come such a long way over time. For example, in today’s society women are going to college, raising families, and holding job positions higher than men. Women are also able to vote, have an opinion, and speak freely. Birth of a Nation reflects on the difference of women’s rights during the early 1900’s and today, 2008. During the time of Birth of a Nation, women were seen as individuals who were looked at as stay at home mothers, who sewed and were not able to speak freely on ideas in which they wanted. Being a woman and viewing this film, I saw the difference in our American history, and today.

         I found this film very interesting and would recommend it to all students, whether they are interested in history, racism, gender roles, etc. Birth of a Nation was a film that was easy to follow and kept my attention throughout. This historical aspect of this film allows students to learn and expand on their knowledge in a better way than just reading text. Watching this film allows students to reflect on history, and understand the historical significance in this film, Birth of a Nation.

Ashley Henderson

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