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America's History in the Making

Resource Archive: Search Results

Birth of a Nation Movie Poster

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Riverside Printing Co., BIRTH OF A NATION MOVIE POSTER (1915). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Creator D. W. Griffith
Context Development of the motion picture as a form of entertainment
Audience Middle-class Americans
Purpose To show the change from movies that only appealed to lower-class ethnic audiences to movies that attracted a national audience

Historical Significance

In 1915, D. W. Griffith produced Birth of a Nation, the first full-length feature film that became a nationwide success. Before Birth of a Nation, early motion pictures appealed to lower-class ethnic audiences in movie theatres known as "nickelodeons." Griffith's portrayal of the Civil War and Reconstruction rendered racist themes that appealed to white Americans during a period when the nation experienced rapid industrialization and urbanization. More than 200 million people saw the film between 1915 and 1946. Some Progressives such as Woodrow Wilson, Dorothea Dix, and Charles Parkhurst supported the film; other reformers, such as Jane Addams and W. E. B. DuBois, sought to stop or delay its screening.

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