Cultural Literacy: The Birth of a Nation

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on The Birth of a Nation, the infamous 1915 film by D.W. Griffith. I think now is a good time for students to learn about this piece of racist propaganda.

There, I got that out on the page. I’ve been walking around this document, metaphorically speaking, for months. In fact, I have a good deal of material about this film–and know more about it than I care to admit. Suffice to say this: this film innovated production techniques and really represents the birth of the long-form, narrative cinema we take for granted today. Even the Marxist auteur Sergei Eisenstein admired D.W. Griffith’s advances in technique while deploring the racism of The Birth of a Nation.

Generally, this film in its “artistic” and commercial dimensions offers a lot of grist for the critical mill. I am still working up to posting more material about this hot-button issue. For now, this short exercise will have to suffice.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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