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tv   The Birth of a Nation at 100  CSPAN  December 27, 2015 11:24am-12:50pm EST

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[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook, @cspanhistory. 2015 marks the 100th anniversary griffith's film "birth of a nation." examines thetory" release of the film. this program is about an hour and a half. >> hello, i am chris wilson here at the museum. andehalf of the smithsonian in partnership with the film
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form, i would like to welcome you. that we wanted to consider " birth of a nation as perhaps the best example affecting the public understanding or , and at theding historical home form, "birth of a nation" has come up over and over with film makers, scholars, and the audience. we are happy to be able to join with back story with the american history guys, the virginia foundation for the humanities, and c-span american history television to bring you this show looking at the film, what it means one century later, and what lessons we can draw for the creation of history film today. thank you for joining us. and now, the history film forum presents, "the birth of a nation" at 100, a live back
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story show. [applause] >> from the virginia foundation for the humanities, this is "backstory with the american history guys." >> welcome to "the birth of a nation" at 100 years. we would like to thank the smithsonian, national museum of american history, the national endowment for the humanities, and the history film forum for giving us this opportunity to spend some time with you. i am peter onuf. >> and brian. -- i am brian. we are excited to be here on
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american history tv on c-span3. if anyone wants to watch online later, to watch it again, go to cbs --\history. if you've never heard of back story, i'm sorry. now is your chance. we are a nationally syndicated public radio show, we work with deep virginia foundation for the humanities, and every week we explore one issue across three centuries of american history, heard on over 200 stations around the country, including wamu and you every sunday at 2:00. we are also available whenever you get podcasts, including our website, back story if anyone is watching at home, you can tweet questions using #backstorylive. >> enough of this 21st century technology. let's talk about an early 20th-century technology film, because we are all here tonight to talk about the "the birth of
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a nation". it is quite incredible to me that we are still talking about it. in 2015. i know that this nation still struggles with a remarkable set of racial issues. yet, looking behind me, it seems like "the birth of a nation" that's at some issues that were even more ominous and challenging than the ones we face today. i'm also amazed that we are talking about "the birth of a nation" 100 years later, because frankly, i watched the film again this morning, and it could be really dull. [laughter] in an age of twitter, as ed was going on, of instagram, things move very slowly in this film. there are klansman riding around on horses, followed by klansman riding around on horses. [laughter]
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you get my drift. it is pretty amazing that we are still talking about this film, and we will try to understand over the next hour and a half, with your help and questions, try to figure out why we are still talking about this film. >> i thought it was pretty boring, too. three hours and six minutes, but who is counting? [laughter] if we had been here 100 years ago, it would have been different. it would have been a major event, a spectacle. it was the greatest film ever shown. it was a masterpiece, hailed by newspapers across the country, showing at hundreds of theaters, to tens of thousands of people. it had a 44 week run in new york, at broadway prices. that would be two dollars in those days.
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we're talking, whoa! $50 for a movie -- that is the equivalent. not only was it a cultural sensation, the media event -- it was a blockbuster. it was the buzz of the nation. and it was also seeming to have -- woodrow wilson showed it at the white house. we tried to get our show into the white house, we have not succeeded. it was a big deal. it made a big splash. what do you think? sony go home now -- should we go home now? >> we could go on talking forever. you should know to get help in introducing and talking about the film, we have three special guests tonight. faith davis, annette gordon reed, and dj spooky. but before we give them time,
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since we control the mic, i think we should start with something very basic. what is the movie about, and what is the stuff that the movie is about about? >> make it less boring. >> it's about reconstruction. >> no one actually left. >> what is reconstruction? >> it is a lot of things. two big things. it is reconstructing after the american civil war. there are two big things that have to be reconstructed. one is the nation. will they be able to put the country that has been a brutal war with itself or four years back together? abraham lincoln referred to that as reconstruction with a small
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r, even during the war. but then there's the reconstruction we think about, how could you reconstruct the world's powerful slave society, 4 million people held in perpetual bondage, overnight? how do you reconstruct that into something into society? >> when does this actually begin? appomattox -- >> already wrong. [laughter] they had been worrying about it during the civil war. how will we do it. we don't know what abraham lincoln had in mind. in "the birth of a nation", he is a hero, partly because we don't know what he would have done. whatever we had would have been better if he had been president. after appomattox, there are two years in which lincoln's successor -- successor, andrew johnson, is in charge. his idea of reconstruction is give it back to the confederates. you lost, good try, it's all over, we are putting the same powerful people back in charge. let's change slavery as little as possible.
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let's change any opportunity for black people as little as possible. that goes on for two years. >> is that it? >> now. -- no. then there's another decade, because people in the north who might have gone along with easy-going reconstruction, are outraged everything they just sacrificed for seems to begin away by andrew johnson. >> was a really everyone in the north, or those radical people? >> the republicans who had won in 1864 and are going to win again in 1868. the majority of white northern men who are voting. republicans comeback in and say, the white south is having riots, repressing black people everywhere, we are going to have to have radical reconstruction. >> so what is radical? [laughter] >> think about this. in no other place in the world history in the modern era do you
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see a formerly enslaved population than an franchise with a vote. nowhere else do you see a freedmen's bureau coming in -- what is that? it's basically a refugee organization using surplus materials to help insulate people, and it is -- and sleep people, and it is radical because they are occupying the south with union soldiers, including, as the movie loves to dwell upon, african-american union soldiers. that seems like a travesty. by world history standards, it is radical. >> but tell me, what was really at stake? if you had to do this on cnn or fox news, our c-span. >> what is at stake is the future of the country. what kind of united states is going to come out of this civil war that killed the equivalent of 8.8 million people if it happened today? everything is at stake.
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things are so fluid, there are a lot of futures to imagine. >> how long was it? >> 12 years. >> ok, we are into the 70's now. explain to me why people in 1915 would be so spun up about a film about reconstruction? that doesn't make sense to me. >> first of all, it's a lot closer in time than we are. the same time from us as one we first gone to vietnam. it is that current. a lot of people are alive. that have lived through it. there was a growing consensus about -- among historians, political scientists, white americans, that it had been a terrible mistake. that never should you have used the power of the federal government to go down to the local level and try to rearrange things as profound as relationships between black and white people. the director of the movie very consciously had this come out on
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the 50th anniversary of the end of the civil war. people are thinking and talking about the war. it's a way of captioning that as well. -- capturing that as well. >> so it's not about the birth of reconstruction, d.w. griffith is not interested in your story. he has another story. he calls the film "the birth of a nation". why that title? i we had that when my guy wrote the declaration of independence. [laughter] >> here's what happened. this is just really hard for us to wrap our minds around. what does he mean? we will talk later about the plight of the movie, but the basic idea is that this is reconstruction that had to reboot the country, to have the union of the white north and the white south. it is a road map between the two. once you can have the birth of the actual united states that we
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should have had all along, which is as the phrase, aryan. they are actually talking about the white nation coming together. >> in the 19th century, nation and race are very closely linked. that is one of the most jarring things for us. we think of a multicultural, multiethnic nation, that is what we celebrate in the modern american narrative, but in this time, race and nation are pretty close. that is the very heart of romantic nationalism. and that is all about sex. family formation. in this story, if you have the misfortune to see the film -- [laughter] peter: it's a story about family formation artery formation -- or reformation. after the carnage of the civil war, now overcoming the obstacles of reconstruction and the encroachment of freed people, on the legitimacy of the
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birth of this nation. it has to be racially pure. brian: that is why you have these african-americans who are "corrupt" and morally questionable. there are all these implicit things. >> exactly, they stack the deck for anything african americans could do that was wrong. they are dwelling upon the presence of black troops, and black men who were in stable -- enslaved are now in legislative halls, passing laws that are going to make it possible for white men in black women to marry. ohh! there is an obsession with racial purity.
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peter: now they think the boundaries are reestablished around the white nation. but this -- these caricatures of african-americans that we find so profoundly offensive are a way of staking out a boundary, the new boundary of a new nation, born legitimately to be the people it could always be. ed: the villains are all mulatto, people of mixed raced. this is where the ku klux klan comes in. they're the ones with the crosses and disguised horses, and they are going to restore legitimacy through violence. the story of reconstruction is so complicated, and so profound, that people of lots of different political persuasions believe it is a failure for different reasons. >> we have beaten up on the film pretty good. so far. but didn't the film rely on basically professional historian's accounts of reconstruction at the time? >> right, here is the historian who wrote it.
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it's hard to believe they were ever wrong about anything. [laughter] the first professional historians made it their purpose to say reconstruction had been a horrible, flawed experiment. the scenes they depict did happen. there were -- the clan was there. there were black men on jerry's. they did vote. there were african american soldiers. it's not that they are making up things, it is the meanings that they are impugning to that. >> ok, so then what does the film and those historical accounts, what did they leave out? i can name one thing on the film. peter talked about families, and the nation as family, and we will talk about the actual plot in a couple of minutes, but there are two key families. white families, no african-american families. i would love to hear -- i will put you on the spot.
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what reconstruction was actually like, as best we know, for the african-american community. >> here's a way to think about it. you and your family have been held in slavery, the odds are watched loved ones pulled away from you. the war comes in, you are now free with nothing but the shirt on your back and you are supposed to make a new life for yourself. the freedmen's bureau, does it help? but basically you are on your own. there are white schoolteachers who come down to hell. but basically the community has to build a new life for themselves, and whatever set hand. here's the remarkable thing. while all of this turmoil is going on, african-american families are building their own
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churches, their own schools, having remarkable increases in literacy, and they are even managing somehow, to acquire land. by 1910, 80% percent of all black virginia farmers own the land they live on. how did they do that, when everything is stacked against them? there is a story on the surface, and then there is a deep story of persistence. and it's a longer story. one of the ways that griffith communicates the message is by compressing all those years. we don't see any of this happening. it is offscreen. what we see on screen is the family romance, and that is of course, the reunion that most white americans thought the civil war was supposed to be about, or if you are a southerner, it was supposed to end that old union. >> there's a reason people are lining up to see this. it is telling them fundamentally and affirming story. you white people are america, and now the country has been reborn, and the north and the south are
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joined together. >> and by the way, it is telling them at the same time, scientific racism and eugenics are really beginning to take over. when jim crow is beginning to be put in place throughout the south. peter: i would like to think that the late 19th century is really truly awful -- unusually, uniquely awful. this goes back to the 18th century and beyond. the dream of a white nation is jefferson's dream, when he talks about ending slavery, it is not just emancipation. that is what we like to remember about jefferson. it is expatriation. separating the races. they were at war. the idea blacks and whites could live together peacefully without the institutional structure of slavery or its moral equivalent, it was impossible for people to imagine. >> that is why the very year this movie is made is the very year segregation, 50 years after the end of slavery, is put in place.
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this is like the high point of segregation. they have taken this long to figure out how they could segregate everything. movie, in some ways is a segregated movie. brian: and that was the big modern idea. this is how we will deal with race, and aftermath of slavery, we have started it out. ed: and the ku klux klan was also reborn. another way you can sort it out. brian: you guys have done a pretty good job of explaining why the movie mattered in 1915. i will keep you around. i'm curious to explore why the movie has continued to matter, and what the reaction is and what it has been, and i want to call upon the first guest, faith davis ruffins. curator at the smithsonian. right here, the national museum
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of american history and i have learned today that she has been here for 30 years -- 35 years? a long time. she specializes in african-american history. faithoing to chat with for about 10 questions. i will try very hard not to knock people over as i moved. "backstory."e to let me start off by asking you -- we've been jumping around talking about history. let me start by asking you -- just tell us about the plot of this movie -- this three hours and -- peter: six. three hours and six
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minute movie. : it is a long movie. but it is basically a romance. that is something that gets lost. tremendous spectacle in which two families -- two white families, one from pennsylvania and one from south carolina their sons needed for the war and they are separated by the war. when they meet before the war the northern family visit the southern family and they fall in love. so we have a love story the -- at the center of this. brian: the boys to some degree followed love. faith: to some degree, yes. there are several boys. from each family during the war. onethey die in each other's arms.
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brian: quite literally. faith: what happens is after the war is over and this is what the family romance against this larger at the is that both the southern family and members of the northern family are threatened this terrible evil reconstruction. they are threatened by the changes put in place by, what are believed to be ignorant, -- ignorant, corrupt black people put in charge of the south. then once they save the south of save the south, it is safe for the members of the families to marry. one of the interesting things film is for people at the time, who loved the movie, is the romantic heart of it that is so feeling. this sentimental story of joining the nation together to
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reinforce your ideas, literally by marriage. they are joined together in their unity against which has -- against this evil which has been perpetrated on the nation by putting african-americans in charge. the klan is reorganized. it has fallen into -- it is not completely gone -- brian: disrepair. faith: disrepair. show the film well into the 1970's. they would show the film and asked them to join. it's quite an effective recruiting technique in the plan. -- in the klan. brian: frightening. now i've been hearing since college about the technical wonders. i love film but i'm not a , techie. i don't understand how to set up scenes.
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tell me why this film is so important even today. is used to today, it teach from students. an enormous, it's spectacle. we are jaded about spectacles. but keep in mind, anything like this film was absolutely new. there are night scenes which no one knew how to film yet. there are in norma's night scenes. figures say 18,000 people were used. and 3000 or so horses. brian: i bet some of those horses were the same. faith they're quite a lot of african-americans i am this film. all of the main characters are white people in blackface. there are allegedly a few african-americans among the
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extras, but overwhelmingly there are no african-american. the huge battle scenes -- night filming, and then there's some special technique that actually we think of today as being very ordinary. crosscutting. scenes, peoplent in different places on screen at the same time. are many, many subplots. you can see different people doing different things in different parts of the country at the same time. those are elements of what is called the iris effect or the ocular effect in which the film does -- brian: i did not know the term. ocular. the photograph of his loved one that he carries.
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that was really interesting. faith: it heightens the sentimental quality. these techniques are used today. you think of "titanic." griffith says at the beginning of the film, this is a plea for motion picture making. he wants to show how power motion pictures can be in this -- and this film does show that. brian: that's great, faith. tell us a little bit about the immediate reaction. faith the national association : for the advancement of colored , was recentlyacp formed. it was formed in 1909. they know that the film is going to be made, because thomas dixon, the author of two novels griffith, and dw
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they are aware because the novels have been bestsellers the -- and there is a stage play made of it. thenaacp is aware before movie opens it is going to happen. and they are very, very worried. one of the founders of the naacp say, the novels -- people who read the novels were already against us. the people who saw the plays, not bury me people can see plays, but if they make this into a movie will galvanize people against our cause. brian: they knew that ahead of time? that ahead ofew time. so, they organize protests around the country. many of these protests were not successful. and when it is shown, statistics a there are 200 riots. this is the old meaning of riots towhich white americans went
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black communities and pillaged and burned down people's homes and attacked people in black communities. the film occur because is so inflammatory it galvanizes people to attack the african-american population. the naacp continues to protest film because it is re-released several times in the 1930's. this helps the naacp become a truly national organization. it does help their organizing , but even more significantly, it inflames white americans who feel themselves to be potentially under attack. brian: so the end of lacey p knows this is a powerful tool. filmmakers-american respond with this powerful tool?
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faith absolutely. : perhaps the most famous was on he starts filming in 1919 and it is released in 1920, and it is explicitly a counter to the griffith film. brian: will you kill me if i ask you to tell me the plot? faith: it is another complex plot in which a series of romances is at the center of the plot. a young african-american woman leaves the self to raise funds for a school, piney woods. there still is a school today. in the course of raising funds she has a series of , misadventures of her field day -- and her fiancé is stolen by an evil cousin. is a long series -- brian: how long? faith: it, too, is about two and
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a half hours long, a silent film. but what is countering, when the young man falls in love with her, tries to find out about her past, she explains this terrible history in which she was adopted by a black family in the south and the black family realizes that they are being cheated out of their harvest money by the local -- essentially plantation owner. the plantation owner is killed by another white farmer, but because the community thinks it's the adopted father and mother that killed the landowner, they are lynched. so the story really shows much more the truth of reconstruction, which is african-american communities are try toto buy land, establish communities, trying to build churches, and they are thwarted in this by extreme violence.
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extreme violence and violence and is unanticipated essentially unfair, unjust. ryan: so, the film does try to show the story that had began to tell us about -- brian: so the film does try to show story that to tell us about. faith: that is right. unfortunately it does not get the same number of views -- brian: it is not shown in the white house? faith: it is not shown in the white house. woodrow wilson, the first southern born president, does not ever see it as far as we know. brian thank you so much for : joining us. [applause] what do you make of that? [indiscernible]
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it is galvanizing. on the one hand consolidating and original reality. it is a big change for the worse. it makes things different. it is those circumstances -- i think this is what faith is great at -- we have kind of a dialog set up. the conflict between the growing danger -- this is not progress. this is just the opposite. growing danger of being further marginalized and oppressed -- brian: the new technology. that's what strikes me. talk about the divergence of scientific racism and jim crow and these films. this is all cutting edge. this is twitter and instagram.
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economics infused psychology. this is all the cutting edge science and technology of the day. mention segregation. think of segregation as a new technology just as this film is a new way of communicating. it seems like a perfect storm and a disastrous one for african-americans. it's not just the film. i think we need to talk more about that. but we have another guest. brian: speaking of perfect storm, we have you talking to a net gordon reed. i can't imagine a more perfect storm. peter: let me storm right over there. annette is a historian at harvard law. she is a macarthur fellow and an all-around wonderful human being. what can i say? she is my co-author. annette. [applause]
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for being here. it's always fun to be with you. let's follow this up. this is a powerful moment. it's not just the history of film we are talking about. we are talking about a major moment in american history. ways, "the birth of the mice is thatred in moment, but it's part of that moment, too. what happens next? annette: this was something that galvanized the african-american community. they realized they had to respond to this threat. there is something new in the world. we were discussing earlier that they used to go through the south with film and sort of show life in southern society, but before they had editing.
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you would see everything. you would see black families, good things, bad things, everything. all of a sudden you have this >> or edited in ways that the notion of white premises. it. the naacp gets involved in an organization of african americans to white. the decision to go after the elements of ways led to the issue of freedom of each versus censorship versus the problems of people who are marginalized. speech isn't really free for people who have houses burned
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down and attack. it's another part of the story. it was not thought of it this came on. the problem is worse than ever and always. the story at the heart of the nation. the problem is worse than ever in some ways. ashave been describing it romantic, sentimental. it actually indicates the power of the story. how does that carry on in mainstream america? >> euphemism a euphemism for white america. >> it brings people together area that makes them justified what they're doing. putting up the structure of segregation.
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miscegenation is so interesting. at the heart of all of this is the fear of racial mixing. we get the one drop rule during this time. blacks start to mobilize. other people, lawyers, think how are we going to attack this? there is this question of interracial relations. so you develop a legal strategy for challenging all of these things. at the same time you are disclaiming any interest whatsoever of intermixture. which, as you said is a whole , nation of people who are one who cannot be in the same family is problematic. it's a real tricky business of how people were strategizing about how to bring the forward. -- the african-american community forward. they have to do that and challenge at the same time that
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not reassuring, but making sure they will not inflame white. it's a bizarre strategy. it means that at the end of the day people are dancing around an issue. >> destroyed at birth. with lincoln, the civil war. after birth of a nation there is a new romance of the north with the south and that extends back to the antebellum. south and that extends back to the antebellum. but against national traction. and it's expressed in movies like on the win that romance with the south that wasn't just what we thought but we have lots something.
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this cherished moments in american history. >> all of that yes you feel a brother in the gillibrand about that you let him have his way to. that's essentially what happened area and everyone says histories written by the victors area and here and way our social history was when -- written by the people who were defeated. they are often the hero if it's done post-civil war. the hero is a next confederate. there's a romanticization of the. this is all part of this notion of everybody coming together but it's a big ends of african-americans. rubble -- it'se good to be rubble. you think about what they were rebelling wrong.
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>> you call the bizarre difficult. things are happening. we've mention the naacp. a mobilization that would eventually get traction. in many ways these are lost. there's another. a mobilization. >> movements for solidarity. that's a things blooming here. there's a war going on. their black soldiers later on the back the war that this feel that they are owed something because their citizens and they've done the ultimate ring
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that you can do is listen serve your country. happen come back and play can't tell races. -- there are stage productions. features does comes happen that are becoming more and more outrageous. this movie is there. there are other kinds of movie he made. be the niggger, using that term actually. it's meant to be sympathetic. they have the highest public in a deal at that. responsehe notion of changes people.
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all of this people coming together. certainly the self-consciousness. >> you might even say there is -- it's been very formed in the history of slavery. it's now mobilizing the long haul. insults theseg caricatures are just a really big iceberg. another. ii was of profound change. you might release the whole civil rights movement. begin with theys reaction. >> absolutely. ultimately the first lawyers all the strategies.
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the start of the 20 30's and 40's. it begins during this time. with people who are really mobilizing the insults that are not just in the united states. they realize the film is not just a year. it's all over the world. >> would like to tell our big story in terms of democratization. is another outcome that mobilization. >> and avoiding mention or. people sort of look at the statement that is in. some said we felt that. not as an out and out battle.
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>> thank you very much. [applause] >> thinks a lot peter. we've been covering a lot of territory. and birth of a nation even up to today is still a living presence in american culture. click the stream without that we can't yet. we're fortunate to have another guest to help us think about .esting new ways i'm happy to bring to the stage and influential electronic and mental hip-hop musician from washington dc dj spooky.
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[applause] >> all of these historians appear talking about your warm. we are eager for you to take the stage until the bell what you've done. >> first and foremost what comes to mind when i hear about that story on text is the subtle context of the civil war ended legacy was the 14th amendment. that's a good corporations personhood. my mother these days as we are altered offers.
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contemporary sharecropping credit card bills. -- one day. nice lady every day streets were talking about living in the now one afternoon i was having a concert at the university of my remakes of the film. charlotte was a professor came up and said on one of the descendents of the camera family lives in your own. >> it's not my film. the remakes. i would like to invite you to come see the ruins of the plantation. it's near durham. the family the film is a real family and their role in the largest location is in the south. guy the this white descendents of this huge slaveowning family unlike his the county.
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you never know. the mall. it's usually a white male going crazy killing everyone. you really have to think i visited the plantation and it is a moment with a hot -- so that humanity. you can view the wind coming out of the city of the field. and the profound experience. with the possibility of potential of america. his three lingers at every level. i will get into some other stuff. those workers rose on the trains with the northerner test as a northerner visiting this area experiencing what must've been like to feel that the nation. also i did not feel like it was
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the nation i felt operation. >> you turn the story sideways. that's kind of what you've done. year anything about birth of a copies.e have i restore the whole film. for me at least in the mine the american narrative we always like to see epic. america likes to do things they. when you think about the effect of. if you remember the scene of populace now and they have helicopters, village, it's because of the helicopters and platelet numbers, wagner was the original or.
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what did operate. the all right of the klansmen. subordination was one the ideapirations or of an occupied nation village to village combat. that scene is actually a seat as the remakes of the nation. your industry. >> i am taking notes. you have to think about remixing of languages this generation's response to american. americans at the attention span of their.
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cinema's are like you. remixingu go about birth of a nation? >> one of the panelists mentioned earlier the boring area is going to do a hip-hop update we have to get is an helicopters. nsa edward stone with a cell phone. hackers if you look at the original there is a generation who responded to this. one of my favorites was the wind done gone. is gone with the wind. hip-hop wordplay. >> there's a lot of narrative lay here. ample and edited
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the film back together thinking about tempo. think about electronic using there's almost in that electronic music has been in the vernacular. youtube facebook twitter you name it. huge volumes of people are uploading videos restored. they will take a sound and reappropriated to whatever. in 1915 rhythm of the same. if minority business play. a photoplay. here?s what we're seeing >> artists are the people who help reframe the debate. wagner in the 19th century when the term total artwork. cycle look at the ring
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lord of the rings things like that there's been this whole notion of epic narrative. you go back to the inching greeks people liked to hear huge drama. the war of troy for example. especially after the 1890's and early 1910 year this longform. films of been shortened. us threeideo for minutes. look at adele. there's a tremendous attentions fan. think about the rise of the minstrel show. it's america's dna of the illusion of all these different cultural paradox. it's what people in black days middleing to be in the of the plantation. i can't imagine more postmodern
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than that. they definitely did not reject area >> you look at sound area is all sound. two variables are it sound and silence. the character set to tell the story with the body. the good person like that. most of the characters in the film are white and black. awkwarda kind of sickness to the character. -- it's like if you apply seeing that. i would've been like i can't even imagine late james o jones lang darth vader's block anyway area and the about black characters in star wars. southern white races were saying boycotted because the main storm trooper character is black. those like darth vader is back
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in black. just roll with it. >> so is the point of your remixing to neutralize? is it drain the impact of our my mom wasto mark the first woman to have an afro. we definitely have to think of that time. was a dreamn i someplace the remakes of the american dream. nixon's southern strategy, the idea was when i
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look at ben carson is probably character in the film. as a lot of players going on still echoing the echo chamber. >> re-think about what this means in america culture. i think it can be a very on the thing. >> it's not about suppressing history area i think that's where the idea of being if you lookcorrect at the difference between germany and an the germans accepted the legate the of the destructive nature of ideology.
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it's a very famous artists -- essay analogy evil. same't think americans thing with the japanese. the japanese are widely hated by the koreans and chinese. japan is amazing, but their history is they suppressed number of walmart to. and i think my culture suppresses a make it even more trade the germans alike love terrible stuff happens the swastika and bands when you talk about this. when i see confederate flag epic of the swastika sign kind of car. >> your ideas and that is suppressing the three main. >> or having ended russian area what i think too many times
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people center playing the race hard. problems orrsonal whatever you call white privilege, people tend to think that the playing field is level and the world is not that. about youhas to be thinking about the categories of how we look at economic and identity area i grow. d.c. and the ronald reagan on one in. that's it. i want to play clip. initially the idea is that you are storytelling.
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[indiscernible] >> struggles with an escalating war in europe. a woman's right to vote. recovering thell deadly civil war. throes of an attempt to
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create the league of nation wilson saw very different vision than he did with his international ideals. the league of nations was an attempt to form what he called an organization to end all wars. his screen the birth of a nation at the white house. it was the first film to play there in american history. the birth of a nation set the tone. it is still used to debate about how much progress has or has not heard. and whether such a films that have ever been made. america, the three birth of a nation hangs as vector. ultimately, the birth of a
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nation is about controversy. it's a deep ignorance. it was something in the tradition of america the, the minstrel show. it's that the tone for the 21st wouldy when media literally create a visual democracy. the rebirth of a nation -- the timetable became the projector.
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all of those things look back through history. it's been said that those who don't learn from history are due to repeated. [applause]the truth? >> masking and that ain't to come up q&a. we're asking them to come up in case there are any difficult questions.
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people walk up to the microphones? who's in charge here? >> i assume people walk up to the microphone. they are on each side. one is locking up to one. i wanted to know little more inut dw griffith, who he was his beliefs. and they were just up on the screen. i wanted to know little bit more about how that movie actually got funded. was its northern money or southern? >> griffith grew up listening to his father confederate veteran tell the stories about the civil war. he was sitting under the table listing to them go on on about all this. he did not write the original book. that's by thomas dixon the klansmen.
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it was the name of the movie even when he took it to the white house. they were telling the story that they grown up with about the great travesty. this was made in hollywood. the source of the money is not southern it's northern and western. bazillion dollars. he ran out of money as it was making it in gateway shares in the home along the way. in 1907 failed actor medium saw this new emerging around him in new york. he started acting and then he you go from the three-minute video they were starting make longer one.
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in eight years ago something nobody to dw griffith. this is the last film you made. he peaked and then went away. >> i have two questions area first is you know where we can actually see the original? can you talk about about his next movie tolerance? >> he's also wrong by the response of his genius that he decided to make a movie about intolerance for history. he spent a million dollars of the money than to make this film and it crashed and burned.
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he never really -- the great travesty came on movies are the talking and he never did adapt that. the movie is easily available on >> it did crash and burn in terms of its influence, it to was very very powerful. the analog devices shooting in in each of the four different characters. it was not a commercials that again is dust was influencing filmmakers. this is an incredibly famous in the original are some that shape hollywood. >> you make films about the civil war were made this one. >> just as footnote he also made a movie broken blossom which is another's worry of the evil of interracial make thing that it
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said in a chinatown. it's a film that talking about the evils of having chinese evil in the united states and how this could lead to interracial mixing. it senate session that he has that is not limited to african-americans. although when he makes the film immigration from china has been virtually banned nonetheless he makes the film in the 1920's. if could say something about another big air 1915 to the influx of immigrants to this country? especially from eastern europe. when we think of the time. it's all about immigration.
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i was thinking about in two ways one is reconstruction but also the rise of the importance of this movie is so. i was picturing it showing in new york which is worse where ellis island is. >> i would love to respond to that because you have to remember this book. white people. dids never american woman this epic narrative. in europe everybody is issues with everybody. when the come here they're all white. is an intriguing theology of how white becoming allegory. novak, english always have trouble with the french and with the germans. modela had a reductionist allowed consolidating the role whiteness. is toonifying theme area
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alienated white families. day, looking the for. is a pretty vitter good role model fragrance. see theeasily definition of whiteness. culture. say whiteness to is an important theme of this is also where national origins are being sized. were looking towards eugenics. in the idea of racial purity. cultivating a particular people's genius.
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americans share that. connect to to get this film and its emphasis on race. catholics within the target of a lot. >> i think it's important to note that although immigration is a highly restrictive immigration law passed. because there are some the americans who were again the notion of letting in many more will. as of today we can see that there is conflict in american history over whether we will in fact let lots of other people in or not.
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there is a moment of immigration. but this by 1920 is becoming a moment where the station of immigration is becoming very important in the united states. number ofived a things on whether. all dead contemporaries dorians you are a nation? lots on the city was the political scientist audits taurean.
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who the interesting thing is that the reading i've done for neversuggest that himself actually said history written with lightning. but that was a claim. and wilson was angry at the way he was commercialized. distance he felt like he was con are these guys who were in the marketing. i think that the historical and political science repression does not give the until afterent
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world war ii. it's not that it went unchallenged just went unchallenged in the establishment. >> the idea of the birth of democracy -- the famous historian -- the genius of the people to govern them go. so just come from a certain kind of forest. >> you need a big seminar. first of all thank you for being here. absolutely fantastic. i just moved from l.a.. of years ago so movie theater was going to show this film that there was a huge ride. more or less in the three different perspectives one people saying is not to be shown
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there were going to do protests and so forth. that it wasing pushing censorship and it should be shown in three does rise to that it should be shown with discussion and education area a huge outcry. going along with that twitter thetion the question is last couple of weeks in missouri unbelievable what happened there. princeton students now are stating that they want his name removed from the building. mrs. crossing all campuses were there is that use in buildings named after folks who are about races. the question is should that happen?
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we remove the name and statues of all these who have >>petuated white supremacy? i told you i invited you a pair for cap westjet. >> like a fool i said i'll come area >> depends on who it is. it difficult line drawing option. is in the middle. when we talk about the long mind able. john c calhoun has to go. -- if we are going to start disappearing everybody was with the premise is, were not to have any statues left. that the exaggeration.
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it's a tough question. as historians we deal all the time complexities. -- there are three people. i'm not joking about calhoun. there are some people who -- there are no redeeming all in these. that is helping that is moving us forward today. both of them on the fence about. i don't think you should be totally disappeared. with someoneoblem who actually did do some good ideas. think your answer. the discussion is good. the difficult line drawing function.
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he is a difficult one for me. >> i'm afraid that's mbs. i would like to think or three guests. [applause] we also want to thank the entire team. like to think c-span. >> and we like to think our good friend back story staff.
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many thanks to back stories generous donors. [applause] >> thanks very much everybody. obviously we could talk about this for hours. what happens next?
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>> can we do closing remarks >> me at least the beauty of this kind of fan all is that debate and discussion is healthy. i think a society that has a healthy sense of strength in its own interior should be able to have an honest and adult discussion about some of the issues that are deeply problematic. the film to me at least is very tarnished legacy precisely because of the suppression and the other issues he will probably say go into the basic fabric of american siding. where the long tradition of voter suppression. all issues that our society
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should only have a lot more candid about. i'm all for debate and discussion. but it's got an orwellian. i don't think we have to rate things. like he said all the things i would say. theh is basically i think russian is the most important element. if we walk around illuminating all the things we don't like about the past you'll find out you can't learn from it. there will be no i think it is essentially put some of these things in the forefront so we can talk about it today and relate their relevance to our present. motto is we need more history, not less.
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them i will try to make it quick. unless we can go over. >> i think it is a good idea to keep it quick. i don't have much time to yield. >> that gentleman got to something i wanted to ask. i was watching and and it reminded me of this film called triumph of the will. they have some of the same principles applied. aboutk they are talked differently, there was a clear
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cap. if they ever died, the re-ignition of it. howery -- how are we able to the birth of the nation in the same vein as the triumph of the will. -- all of them reframe it as an epic struggle. anyone can say -- then you have stalin, which is not so great. if you are living in germany and hitler, don't forget, was
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democratically elected. crazyated this dictatorship. intriguing enough to become a photographer. her photography of nubian warriors really interesting. she liked warrior dudes, i guess. a lot of everything. at the end of the day when we look at history, he's a brilliant filmmaker. an incredible sense of cinematography. griffith again is an incredible filmmaker. for me at least, it should be copyright open source. it is already being revised.
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a difference frame of reference points are generated. we can't say this is all of a sudden going to be a pc thing. nobody should talk about racism. i'm trying to push this as my own participation as an open discussion. for want to thank everybody joining us for this open discussion. >> you are watching american history tv.
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all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. "lectures inn> eintory," andrew burst teaches a class on the enlightenment era in america. he examines benjamin franklin's venturesand community to show how these endeavors were in line with the humanist ideals of the time. he also argues that the great awakening, a religious movement of the 1730's and 1740's was in conflict with the enlightenment on scientific thinking. his classes about one hour.


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