Urban legend has it that when President Woodrow Wilson first saw D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915), he said "it is like writing history with lightning." While the first epic movie in American film history was as deeply innovative as it was deeply racist, The Birth of a Nation ushered in a new era of blockbuster movie making in the early history of the medium.
Ebert, Roger. "The Birth of Nation." RogerEbert.com, March 30, 2003.
Franklin, John Hope. "'Birth of a Nation': Propaganda as History." The Massachusetts Review 20:3 (1979): 417-434.
Lennig, Arthur. "Myth and Fact: The Reception of 'Birth of a Nation.'" Film History 16:2 (2004): 117-141.
Rogin, Michael. "'The Sword Became a Flashing Vision': D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation." Representations 9 (1985): 150-195.
Simcovitch, Maxim. "The Impact of Griffith's Birth of a Nation on the Modern Ku Klux Klan." In Celluloid Power: Social Film Criticism from The Birth of a Nation to Judgement at Nuremberg, edited by David Platt, 72-82. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1992.
Simmons, Scott. The Films of D.W. Griffith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
This episode is part of our Film History Series.
Music by Kevin MacLeod (www.incompetech.com)