Debrief on Reconstruction and simulation.
Birth of a Nation
Read the first four paragraphs from Steven Mintz, “Birth of a Nation” prepared for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (external link):
In 1915, 50 years after the end of the Civil War, D.W. Griffith, released his epic film Birth of a Nation. The greatest blockbuster of the silent era, Birth of a Nation was seen by an estimated 200 million Americans by 1946.
Based on a novel by a Baptist preacher named Thomas Dixon, the film painted Reconstruction, the period following the Civil War, as a time when vengeful former slaves, opportunistic white scalawags, and corrupt Yankee carpetbaggers plundered and oppressed the former Confederacy until respectable white Southerner rose up and restored order. A "scalawag" was a southern white who supported the Republican party; a "carpetbagger" was a northern-born Republican who had migrated to the South.
The film depicted a vindictive northern Congressman, modeled on a Pennsylvania Republican member of Congress, Thaddeus Stevens, and a power-hungry mulatto eager to marry the Congressman's daughter. The film's hero is an aristocratic Confederate veteran who joins the Ku Klux Klan and at the film's climax rescues the woman from armed freedmen. President Woodrow Wilson reportedly described the film as "history written with lightning."
During the twentieth century, far more Americans probably learned about Reconstruction from Hollywood rather than from history books or lectures. Films like Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind depicted Reconstruction as a misguided attempt to overturn the South's "natural" order by giving political power to former slaves.
Next view, the following clip and consider the following questions, first with a partner, and then together as a class: