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A Demonstration Led by NAACP
December 4, 1915
NAACP led protest demonstrations against the showing of the movie Birth of a Nation. The racism that African Americans experienced in both the South and the North during the war years could be glimpsed in many arenas of American life, including the movies. It is not surprising, perhaps, that The Birth of a Nation, which appeared in March 1915, was both one of the landmarks in the history of American cinema and a landmark in American racism. Historian Thomas Cripps has characterized The Birth of a Nation as “at once a major stride for cinema and a sacrifice of black humanity to the cause of racism.” Based on two historical novels, The Clansman, An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (1905) and The Leopard’s Spots: A Romance of the White Man’s Burden, 1865­1900 (1902), and a play, The Clansman (1906), written by a North Carolina lawyer turned preacher, Thomas Dixon Jr., The Birth of a Nation recounts the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction through the eyes and experiences of Southern whites who vehemently opposed the political and social progress made by newly freed African Americans after the Civil War. Much of the novel’s tone, which Cripps describes as “a nightmare of interracial brutality, rape and castigation,” found its way into The Birth of a Nation.
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