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Fri Feb 24, 2012, 09:31 PM

Re-Birth of a Nation?

from Robert S. McElvaine at HuffPo: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-s-mcelvaine/rebirth-of-a-nation_b_1300042.html

____ I have lost count of how many times I have sat through D.W. Griffith's 1915 cinematic masterpiece and historical monstrosity, The Birth of a Nation. It has long been my contention that one cannot properly understand the American past without seeing this film. But it was not until my most recent screening of the movie for students that I suddenly realized that it also the case that one cannot properly understand the American present without seeing this infamous racist epic.

What struck me was that this infamous film provides the key to explaining both the rise of the Tea Party and the totally irrational hatred that a substantial fraction of Americans holds for President Obama.

Griffith portrays black people as sub-human beings who are just fine as long as they accept and stay in their place of subjugation. The slaves on the South Carolina plantation that is the principal setting for the film's story are "faithful souls," eager to help their kindly masters. Enjoying the benefits of their enslavement, they abhor freedom as something they do not deserve and could not handle.

The radical racist mentality that had emerged in the 1880s and constitutes the foundation upon which The Birth of a Nation is constructed was, in the words of historian Joel Williamson, "the concept that Negroes, freed from the restraining influences of slavery, were rapidly 'retrogressing' toward their natural state of bestiality." In Griffith's film, they become "crazed negroes" who make "helpless whites" their "victims." Mammy, one of the faithful souls who appreciate what slavery does for them, sums up the filmmaker's view when she says, "Dem free-n****** f'um de N'of am sho' crazy."

That tells us a great deal about widespread attitudes a century ago, but surely we have come a very long way since then... haven't we?

read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-s-mcelvaine/rebirth-of-a-nation_b_1300042.html

(AFP Photo/Jewel Samad)

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Reply Re-Birth of a Nation? (Original post)
bigtree Feb 2012 OP
Number23 Feb 2012 #1
JustAnotherGen Feb 2012 #2
Number23 Apr 2012 #3

Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 11:04 PM

1. Lord, have mercy

But the greater insight into the mentality that fuels the contemporary anti-Obama hysteria is to be found in the representation of the 1915 film's totally evil character, Silas Lynch, the mixed race "traitor" to both races who lusts for power.

The diabolical Lynch is said to be "happy at last to wreak vengeance" on the whites who formerly ruled. "Drunk with power," the malevolent mixed race leader proclaims: "I will build a Black Empire."

The 1915 representation of Silas Lynch differs hardly at all from the 2008-2012 right-wing depictions of Barack Obama: the evil, mixed race man intent on dominating white Christian people and setting up a black (or Muslim) empire over which he will rule.

If that doesn't sound almost VERBATIM like the deranged, hate-filled idiocy from the Becks, Limbaughs, Coulters of the world and their malevolently idiotic followers, I don't know what does.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Mon Feb 27, 2012, 05:52 PM

2. And Silas Lynch

Can't exist if miscegenation is not allowed.

I watched this as part of my Art and History of Film class back in 1992. I was a Mass Comm and Poli Sci Major. At the same time, I was reading Con Law and History 104 - Course started with Reconstruction.

I'll never forget the slack jawed look of my mostly caucasian fellow Mass Comm class mates when Professor H brought up the lights. She said - write down three sentences of your initial reaction and bring them to Wednesday evenings class.

All of us - including me - agreed first and foremost - What awesome special effects. Amazing what he did with so little for a bunch of college kids who grew up on Star Wars films.

Then - the general reaction was - The content was horrible.

And I'll always remember my class mate from just north of Toronto stating: "Silas was a child a of the plantation and the product of a rape. Do the math."

Just my musings and memory of Birth of A Nation - and isn't it ironic? How the Right 'paints' President Obama as being just like him? Though their very existence began from two entirely different space/places and 'times'.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sun Apr 22, 2012, 11:06 PM

3. Utterly fascinating read here on the entire Tragic Mulatto experience in American literature/film


And yes, there is a bit of discussion on ol' Silas in Birth of a Nation. But if this bit ain't the weirdest thing I've ever read...

"Mulattoes did not fare better in other books and movies, especially those who passed for White. In Nella Larsen's novel Passing (1930), Clare, a mulatto passing for White, frequently is drawn to Blacks in Harlem. Her bigoted White husband finds her there. Her problems are solved when she falls to her death from a sixth story window. In the movie Show Boat (1936), a beautiful young entertainer, Julie, discovers that she has "Negro blood." Existing laws held that "one drop of Negro blood makes you a Negro." Her husband (and the movie's writers and producer) take this "one drop rule" literally. The husband cuts her hand with a knife and sucks her blood. This supposedly makes him a Negro. Afterward Julie and her newly-mulattoed husband walk hand-in-hand. Nevertheless, she is a screen mulatto, so the movie ends with this one-time cheerful "White" woman, now a Negro alcoholic."

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