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Revisiting 'Birth of a Nation' in Today's America

Actors wearing Ku Klux Klan regalia chase down a white actor in blackface in <em>The Birth of a Nation</em>.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Actors wearing Ku Klux Klan regalia chase down a white actor in blackface in The Birth of a Nation.

Author and film historian Donald Bogle talks to Robert Siegel about D.W. Griffith's film, The Birth of a Nation. The Civil War epic from 1915 has been highly criticized for its celebration of the Ku Klux Klan and its representation of Southern blacks -- played by white actors in blackface -- as uncivilized rapists.

At the same time, Griffith's film has earned praise for numerous technical achievements, such as its pioneering use of close-ups and tracking shots.

Bogle is co-hosting a series on Turner Classic Movies about African Americans in Hollywood films that will include the controversial film.

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