Birth of a Nation: A Great Historical Epic

        The 1915 silent film directed by D.W. Griffith, Birth of a Nation, set new standards for film and the cinema. Griffith's three-hour film is based on the book, The Clansman, written by Thomas Dixon. The 1915 the film raised a little controversy, but mostly shined light on new ways of filming and editing. Not only did Birth of a Nation have great historical importance in the film industry, but it also had historical significance in American culture. The film was the first great historical epic and the highest grossing silent film ever. Also, in the early twentieth century, it was held responsible for the resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan. However, the film was also entertaining with its underlining melodrama storyline and its political statement.

        Birth of a Nation tells the story of the American Civil War and Reconstruction from the southern viewpoint. In the film there are two families, one is from the North and the other from the South. These two families are the Stonemans, which are abolitionists, and the Camerons, which are typical slave-owning southerners. The whole focus of the film is placed on the Stonemans' and the Camerons' experiences during the war and after the war. Brothers, Phil and Ted Stoneman visit the Cameron family. Eventually, both families must join opposite armies in the war; therefore ultimately affecting their friendship. The consequences of the war for each of the families' lives are shown in connection to many major historical events, such as the war itself, Lincoln's assassination, and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. The portion of the film dealing with the Ku Klux Klan is a very controversial and important part of the film, because the film attempted to justify the existence of the Ku Klux Klan as a "necessary means to remedy being 'crushed under the heel of the black South'."

        In conclusion, D.W. Griffith's 1915 film Birth of a Nation was a very groundbreaking piece for film, as well as, an integral part in American history. Not only did it entertain, but also it showed important parts of American history, and even raised new issues in American culture.

Ashley Davis

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