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The Birth of a Nation & The Origins of the NAACP

In 1915, D.W. Griffith, released a film that would go down as one of the most disturbing representations of black Americans ever, The Birth of a Nation. Released post-Civil War and Reconstruction Era, the film played on stereotypes abroad.

Griffith ignited a racist agenda and amplified the thoughts many white Americans had about free black people. Using white actors in blackface, the film was full of racist propaganda that proposed the idea that free black people were too lazy and ignorant to fully master American citizenship.

But even in times of darkness, light always finds its way in. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) led an initiative to protest the three-hour film. While efforts were not successful, the NAACP would see increased membership and become the staple it is in the black community today.

Hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. — with additional commentary from Vincent Brown and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham of Harvard University, and Imani Perry from Princeton University — we look at a piece of propaganda that aimed to tear down black people. But instead, it unified them in ways still seen today.

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