The Birth of a Nation (1915)

To fully understand the climactic Clansmen Rescue sequence in The Birth of a Nation (1915) it is necessary to first situate it in relation to the film’s overall racist ideological project. As a Civil War film, it overlooks the socioeconomic and political differences between the North and the South. Instead, the film proposes that the seeds of the conflict rested with the racial difference between whites and blacks and when the natural right of the former to rule over the latter was challenged by radical and misguided politicians. The Clansmen Rescue sequence supports this project by exploiting the moral valence of the rescue scenario. The sequence portrays the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic force that vanquishes Silas Lynch and his Black militia from control over the town of Piedmont.