Learn how one film’s romanticized portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan helped lead to the Klan’s revival across the nation from 1915 through the 1930s, in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Klansville U.S.A. In D.W. Griffith's 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation, Klan violence is portrayed as necessary to restore order to the South during the era of Reconstruction. The film also celebrates the group’s efforts to keep blacks from exercising their newly-granted right to vote. The Klan's ideology resonated across the country, including in cities, such as northern ones that had experienced huge waves of immigration. Before critical media coverage and power struggles ripped it apart in the 1930s, the Klan had as many as four million members and significant political influence. (Footage from The Birth of a Nation is featured in this video. Actors appear in “blackface,” a practice in which light-skinned actors paint their faces a darker shade in order to portray African Americans.) This resource is part of the American Experience collection.
Click on the links below to download a customizable student handout and transcript for this resource.
Find out more at the program's website.