Thesis |

Lights, Camera, Action, Cut:
​​​​​​​The Delayed Critique of  D.W Griffith's
The Birth of a Nation


The first Hollywood blockbuster, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, released in 1915 sparked both popular acclaim and critical debate due to its racist depiction of the Civil War and Reconstruction era. The film’s controversial reception was deeply clouded by the technological advancements for the time, leading to a delay in the discourse of its racial themes.

Trailer for the film (Griffith, 1915)

"The most beautiful single shot I have seen in any movie is the battle charge in 'The Birth of a Nation.' I have heard it praised for its realism, but it is also far beyond realism. It seems to me to be a realization of a collective dream of what the Civil War was like..."
​​​​​​​-- James Agee


"A long chase of a white girl by a negro, ending with the girl's suicide by throwing herself over a cliff, called forth many excited whispered comments; and from then on to the end of the film there was ready applause for anything derogatory to negroes and for the activity of the Ku Klux Klan."

- "The Birth of a Nation." The New York Post, March 4, 1915.