Birth Of A Nation Movie Review

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade April 2001

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"Birth of a Nation", directed by D.W. Griffith opens in Pre-Civil War America with two families, the Northern Stonemans, and the Southern Camerons. Congressman Austin Stoneman has a daughter named Elsie and two sons whom are later important in the battle scenes of this movie. Ben Cameron, a central figure in the movie, is one of three sons and two daughters. The Stoneman boys are friends with the Cameron boys and they visit their South Carolina estate, where hospitality and slavery coincide. The oldest Stoneman boy falls for Margaret Cameron and coincidentally Ben Cameron idealizes Elsie Stoneman. The Civil War begins and all of the sons from both families join their respective sides. The movie continues with a period of Reconstruction following the Civil War. Ben Cameron forms the Ku Klux Klan and his participation in this group distances him from Elsie Stoneman. Later in the movie, Flora Cameron attempts to run away with a black slave she has fallen for.

The Ku Klux Klan chases them down, and before being caught she jumps to her death leaving the slave left to be caught and hanged. Throughout the war scenes the Camerons are constantly ransacked and trapped, always being "rescued" by the KKK. The movie ends with the Ku Klux Klan riding through the streets triumphantly. The weak storyline that carries "Birth of a Nation" is that of a Southern family and their close friendship to a northern family tested during the battles of the Civil War and the Negro domination of the South afterwards.

D.W. Griffith assumes that the movies inflammatory racial comments and depictions would not offend the middle class audiences who attended the theater. He also assumes that in years to come people of all races would not be offended by its self righteous message of Southern...