Birth of a Movement

Birth of a Movement


INDEPENDENT LENS: "Birth of a Movement" tells the story of Boston-based African American newspaper editor and activist William M. Trotter.  Trotter waged a battle against D.W. Griffith’s technically groundbreaking but notoriously Ku Klux Klan-friendly The Birth of a Nation, unleashing a fight that still rages today about race relations, media representation, and the power and influence of Hollywood.  This collection includes video segments, discussion questions, handouts, and teaching tips connected to the film. 

  • The Birth of a Nation: Film as Propaganda

    This media gallery from INDEPENDENT LENS: "Birth of a Movement" introduces students to the controversial silent film The Birth of a Nation. Historians and journalists discuss the plot of the film—a historically inaccurate retelling of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The support materials help students and teachers consider the film as propaganda and identify the techniques it uses to promote white supremacy.      

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Birth of a Nation: Projecting Jim Crow

    In this media gallery from INDEPENDENT LENS: "Birth of a Movement" students examine the simultaneous rise of Jim Crow segregation and motion picture technology.  The segment features historians discussing early forms of cinema, and the shift in portrayals of African Americans that occurred with the advent of film projection.  The support materials can be used to introduce students to the stereotypical African American fictional characters that emerged after the Civil War and can help them draw parallels to common images of African Americans in today’s media.  

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Birth of a Nation: A Complicated Legacy

    In this video from INDEPENDENT LENS: "Birth of a Movement" students learn about the complex legacy of the controversial film The Birth of a Nation, as both a catalyst for African American activism and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. 

    Grades: 9-12
  • 1895: A Turning Point in Black History

    In this video from INDEPENDENT LENS: "Birth of a Movement" students learn about several milestones in African American history that took place during the year 1895, including the landmark Supreme Court case Plessy vs. Ferguson, the death of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise” speech, and W.E.B. DuBois’ graduation from Harvard University.  The video also introduces students to the Niagara Movement and its offshoot, the NAACP.

    Grades: 9-12

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