Souvenir program for The Birth of a Nation

Description (Brief):

Souvenir program from the original theatrical release of the film The Birth of a Nation. The program is made of off-white paper with images and text printed in ink and a tied off-white cord binding. The program cover features an image of the United States Capitol dome surrounded by a cloud of smoke with the title of the film and name of the director, D.W. Griffith, printed below.

Description (Brief)

The Birth of a Nation is a 1915 American historical drama film adapted from the 1905 novel and play the Clansman, both by Thomas Dixon Jr. The enormously influential and popular film ignited a firestorm of controversy for its ahistorical and racist representation of the American Civil War and Reconstruction eras. The movie tells the story of two wealthy, white families, the Stonemans and Camerons, as they struggle to adapt and survive the Civil War and the political and social changes it unleashed. Its racist mischaracterizations include representations of black and mixed-race Americans as childlike naïfs or violent rapists, demeaning and false portrayals of black lawmakers, and promotion of the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic and patriotic band of citizen soldiers fighting to restore white supremacy. Civil rights leaders and the NAACP organized protests against the film and unsuccessful fought to have it banned or censored. Meanwhile, the film was the most financially successful and critically acclaimed feature film of its era, became the first film ever screened in the White House (with President Woodrow Wilson in attendance), and inspired the creation of the second Ku Klux Klan. Since its release, film scholars and historians have debated and acclaimed the Griffith’s technical achievements (including innovative use of close-ups, tracking shots, parallel action, crosscutting, special effects, color film tinting, and epic score) while studying and condemning the film’s tremendous power as propaganda supporting white supremacist ideology.

Date Made: 1915

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: New York, New York City

Subject: Entertainment, FilmWhite supremacyRaceMotion PicturesCivil WarRacismKu Klux Klan

Subject:

See more items in: Culture and the Arts: Entertainment, Popular Entertainment

Exhibition:

Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2017.0112.01Accession Number: 2017.0112Catalog Number: 2017.0112.01

Object Name: program, movie

Physical Description: paper (overall material)ink (overall material)cord (overall material)Measurements: overall: 12 in x 9 1/2 in x 1/8 in; 30.48 cm x 24.13 cm x .3175 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b3-5566-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1840688

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.