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Birth of a Nation, Birth of a Movement: The African American Outcry in Virginia and Nationwide



James Branch Cabell Library, lecture hall (room 303)
901 Park Avenue, Richmond, VA 23284


2015 marks the 100th anniversary of D.W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation. The film is and will continue to be studied and discussed in schools and universities around the world because of its highly paradoxical nature.

On the one hand, the film is, according to the American Film Institute, among the top 100 films (number 44) ever made in the United States. Indeed, it was one of the first epic films. In addition, it incorporated over 20 cinematic innovations which had not been seen before (such as traveling camera shots).

On the other hand, the film is also one of the most provocative and controversial films ever made in the United States. Despite being proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson as a true work of history, the film was historically incorrect and greatly distorted the post-reconstruction history of the South. Worse, it openly defamed African Americans and utilized gross stereotypical portrayals. The film proved to be inflammatory and racially divisive in nature, with violence breaking out in regions of the country where it was shown.

During Black History Month, 2016, the VCU Robertson School of Media and Culture and VCU Libraries will explore a different side of this paradox: namely, the reaction to this film by African Americans in Virginia and across the country. Featured speakers are Avi Santo, associate professor of communication and theatre arts at Old Dominion University, and Van Dora Williams, associate professor of journalism and communication at Hampton University. The moderator for the event is Clarence W. Thomas, Ph.D., of the VCU Robertson School of Media and Culture.

The event will be followed by a public reception.

This event is free and open to the public, but please register. Parking is available for a fee in the West Broad Street, West Main Street and West Cary Street parking decks. If special accommodations are needed, or to register offline, please call Gregory Kimbrell, events coordinator, at (804) 828-0593 prior to February 12, 2016.


Registration is now closed.


This event is sponsored by the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture and VCU Libraries.

Image: Birth of a Nation NAACP protest in New York


VCU Libraries

James Branch Cabell Library Monroe Park Campus
901 Park Ave., Box 842033
Richmond, VA 23284-2033
Toll-free: (844) 352-7399
(804) 828-1111
All Libraries
Tompkins-McCaw Library MCV Campus
509 N. 12th St., Box 980582
Richmond, VA 23298-0582
Toll-free: (844) 352-7399
(804) 828-0636

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