In America, Black people have been portrayed as a threat and as sexual predators who need to be controlled by white society.
This is not new information (hopefully), but where did this harmful stereotype come from?
Enter D.W. Griffith’s 1915 movie Birth of a Nation. This movie is known as Hollywood’s first real motion picture and was the highest-grossing film until 1939’s Gone With The Wind.
In addition, the film:
- Portrayed Black people as a threat to society.
- Made Black men sexual predators to white women.
- Made the KKK the “savior” to save society and scare off Black people
- Made major technical strides in the film industry.
- Was the first film to be shown at the White House.
- Greatly revived the 2nd phase of the KKK.
- Was used as a recruitment tool of the KKK until the 1970s.
- Was registered into the Library of Congress for being “culturally significant” in 1992.
Simply put, Birth of a Nation was a cultural milestone not only in film but in society in general … with its stereotypes towards Black people still used today (even if it’s at a subconscious level).
It will take decades to undo the irreparable harm this film created, and major strides are currently being done. It’s just important to point out where it all started.