The Birth of a Nation is a 1915 American silent epic drama film directed and co-produced by D. W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish.
David Wark Griffith was an American director, writer, and producer who pioneered modern cinematic techniques.
Lillian Diana Gish was an American actress of the screen and stage, as well as a director and writer.
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The screenplay is adapted from the novel and play The Clansman, both by Thomas Dixon Jr., as well as Dixon's novel The Leopard's Spots.
Thomas Frederick Dixon Jr. was a Southern Baptist minister, playwright, lecturer, politician, lawyer, and author who wrote two early 20th-century novels, The Leopard's Spots: A Romance of the White Man's Burden – 1865–1900 and The Clansman, that glorified the Ku Klux Klan's vigilantes, romanticized Southern white supremacy, and opposed the equal rights for blacks during the Reconstruction era.
The Leopard's Spots is the first novel of Thomas Dixon's Ku Klux Klan trilogy that included The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan and The Traitor.
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Griffith co-wrote the screenplay with Frank E. Woods, and co-produced the film with Harry Aitken.
It was released on February 8, 1915.
The film is three hours long and was originally presented in two parts separated by an intermission; it was the first 12-reel film in the United States.
The film chronicles the relationship of two families in the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era over the course of several years: the pro-Union Northern Stonemans and the pro-Confederacy Southern Camerons.
The term Reconstruction Era, in the context of the history of the United States, has two senses: the first covers the complete history of the entire country from 1865 to 1877 following the American Civil War ; the second sense focuses on the attempted transformation of the Southern United States from 1863 to 1877, as directed by Congress, from states with economies dependent upon slavery, to states in which former slaves were citizens with civil rights.
The American Civil War was a civil war in the United States fought from 1861 to 1865.
The assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth is dramatized.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was assassinated by well-known stage actor John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. Shot in the head as he watched the play, Lincoln died the following day at 7:22 a.m., in the Petersen House opposite the theater.
Abraham Lincoln was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865.
The film was a commercial success, though it was highly controversial for its portrayal of black men as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women, and the portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic force.
The Ku Klux Klan, or simply the Klan, is the name of three distinct movements in the United States that have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-immigration, and, especially in later iterations, Nordicism, anti-Catholicism, and antisemitism.
There were widespread black protests against The Birth of a Nation, such as in Boston, while thousands of white Bostonians flocked to see the film.
Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States.
The NAACP spearheaded an unsuccessful campaign to ban the film.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is a civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 as a bi-racial organization to advance justice for African Americans by W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary White Ovington and Moorfield Storey.
Griffith's indignation at efforts to censor or ban the film motivated him to produce Intolerance the following year.
The film's release is also credited as being one of the events that inspired the reformation of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915.
The Birth of a Nation was the first American motion picture to be screened inside the White House, viewed there by President Woodrow Wilson.
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was an American politician and academic who served as the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921.
Griffith's innovative techniques and storytelling power have made The Birth of a Nation one of the landmarks of film history.
In 1992, the Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
The Library of Congress is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress and is the de facto national library of the United States.
The National Film Registry is the United States National Film Preservation Board's selection of films for preservation in the Library of Congress.