Birth Of A Nation

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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"BIRTH OF A NATION" The film "Birth of a Nation," by D. W. Griffith, is a timeless and controversial silent film. Griffith attempts to use his one-sided philosophies to portray Caucasians and African Americans the way he sees them. "Birth of a Nation" was based on the anti-black play "The Clansman." The story line follows the Clansman family that is from the South and their close friendship to the Stoneman family from the North. This relationship endures Civil War and the Negro domination afterwards. Griffith manipulates the film to show his ignorant views toward the black race. The portrayal of African Americans in this film depicts the role assigned to them by the American culture for this time period. Motion pictures can reflect, reinforce, and reform society. At their best, they can strengthen positive social movements. At their worst, they can glorify the abomination of man. Together, however, they can reflect the social viewpoints of their makers.

The first scene in the film states how the bringing of Africans to America is the beginning of the disunion of the nation. The film begins to show the purchasing of slaves to the people at an auction. It quickly graduates to show abolitionist collection money to purchase freedom for the slaves. The two families, the Stoneman family from Pennsylvania and the Calansman family from South Carolina, are soon introduced. One scene shows the housemaster of the Clansman family with two puppies, one black and white, siting at his feet. The man reaches down to pet the white puppy. Griffith makes a strong biased relation for the white puppy over the black puppy as if it were worthy of the attention. However, the film leads the viewer to believe the African Americans are all treated fairly. Scenes show slaves dancing and clapping...