Title

The Birth of a Nation and the Making of the NAACP

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2-2011

Department

History

Language

English

Publication Title

Journal of American Studies

Abstract

With the appearance of D. W. Griffith's 1915 racist epic, The Birth of a Nation, the six-year-old NAACP reluctantly organized a campaign to ban the film entirely or at least to censor its most offensive elements. Although this struggle was a failure, it helped transform the association in ways no one could have imagined at the outset. Up to this point, the issues the NAACP had taken up, such as housing segregation and lynching, focused primarily on southern or border states. The Birth of a Nation, however, was a national event. As the film moved from major population centers to smaller ones throughout the country, so too did the protests and countless meetings between local NAACP leaders and mayors, city councils, censors, and governors. In the end, this failed campaign had the effect of providing local association members with invaluable political experience and of elevating the NAACP to a position of national stature and indeed prominence in the struggle for civil rights in America.

Comments

For more information on the published version, visit Cambridge University Press's Website.

DOI

10.1017/S0021875809991459

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