Black History Month
On February 8, 1915, DW Griffith’s classic film Birth of a Nation premiered and revolutionized filmmaking. An epic story in which the Ku Klux Klan is portrayed as the vanguard of the “Southern way of life,” the film has been taught and studied as a cinematic masterpiece. Its unfortunate depiction of African Americans—using blackface actors and actual African American actors—resulted in boycotts and race riots that caused it to be banned in some locales. The film also cemented stereotypes that Hollywood filmmakers eagerly embraced in the following decades—and some of which still persist today.
The Gallatin School invites you to revisit the film, curated by Cineaste Editor and Gallatin Faculty Rahul Hamid. Our program, (Re)Birth of a Nation, will feature a rare screening of the film in its entirety (3 1/2 hours), framed by comments from cultural critic Michele Wallace and a follow-up conversation between her and Margo Jefferson, the former theater critic at The New York Times. The event becomes especially significant in light of the recent discovery of footage from 1913 in which African Americans are depicted in settings that reflect middle-class lifestyles and aspirations. Featuring Caribbean American actor Bert Williams, the film offers a contradictory narrative to Birth of a Nation’s incendiary vision of racial life in America.
12:30 – Welcome
1:15 – Screening
5:30 – Discussion with Michele Wallace Margo Jefferson, followed by reception