The Birth of a Nation

1915 film directed by D. W. Griffith

The Birth of a Nation is a 1915 silent drama movie. It was directed by D. W. Griffith. It was based on the book The Clansman by Thomas Dixon, Jr. It stars Lillian Gish.

The Birth of a Nation
Movie poster
Directed byD. W. Griffith
Written byD. W. Griffith, T. F. Dixon, Jr.
Frank E. Woods
Produced byD. W. Griffith, Harry Aitken[1]
StarringLillian Gish
Mae Marsh
Henry B. Walthall
Miriam Cooper
Ralph Lewis
George Siegmann
CinematographyG.W. Bitzer
Edited byD. W. Griffith
Music byJoseph Carl Breil
Distributed byEpoch Producing Co.
Release date
  • February 8, 1915 (1915-02-08)
Running time
190 minutes (at 16 frame/s)
CountryUnited States
LanguagesSilent film
English intertitles
The Birth of a Nation

The movie is about two families during the American Civil War and the Reconstruction era. The Northern Stoneman family is pro-Union. The Southern Cameron family is pro-Confederacy. The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth is dramatized. It is a white supremacist and antisemitic film.

The movie was a great success. It was very controversial though. It showed African-American men (played by white actors in blackface) as stupid and sexually aggressive towards white women. It also showed the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic force.[2] There were protests.[3] The movie was banned in several cities. The outcry of racism was great.[4] Screenings were often followed by riots and attacks.

The movie is also credited in part with the formation of the "second era" Ku Klux Klan the same year. The Birth of a Nation was used as a recruiting tool for the KKK.[5] In 1915, it was the first movie to be shown at the White House, by Democrat Woodrow Wilson.[6][7]


  1. D. W. Griffith: Hollywood Independent
  2. Armstrong, Eric M. (February 26, 2010). "Revered and Reviled: D.W. Griffith's 'The Birth of a Nation'". The Moving Arts Film Journal. Archived from the original on May 29, 2010. Retrieved April 13, 2010.
  3. Mass Moments: “The Birth of a Nation” Sparks Protest
  4. "Top Ten - Top 10 Banned Films of the 20th Century - Top 10 - Top 10 List - Top 10 Banned Movies - Censored Movies - Censored Films". Archived from the original on 2012-05-12. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  5. A Birth of a Nation essays
  6. Perks in the White House
  7. Variety: The Ultimate Screening: ’42′ Gets a White House Endorsement