American History birth_nation

Published on February 9th, 2011 | by Gary DeMar


Rewriting History

D.W. Griffith directed the 1915 epic-making silent film masterpiece The Birth of a Nation, based on the play by Thomas Dixon called The Clansman. The purpose of the film was to rewrite the history of the South and the Civil War. The title The Clansman was changed to The Birth of a Nation to give the film broader appeal. President Woodrow Wilson, a former classmate of Dixon’s, praised the Ku Klux Klan in his writings and is extensively quoted throughout the film. The Birth of a Nation was the first film shown in the White House. In time, the film shaped Americans racial attitudes. School children were taken to see the movie to learn history. More than 200 million people saw the film, and the revival of the Ku Klux Klan may have resulted from the racial attitudes and fears that were shaped by the movie.
Print Friendly

About the Author

Gary is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. He is the author of countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 book titles, His most recent book is Exposing the Real Last Days Scoffers. Gary lives in Marietta, Georgia, with his wife, Carol. They have two married sons and four grandchildren, Gary and Carol are members of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA).

12 Responses to Rewriting History

  1. vee says:

    Oh those poor poor god-fearing, African-American lynching, flesh burning heroic Klans men…their reputation so horribly sullied by those immoral Northern whites. Breaks my heart. When I go to bed I tonight I will hold them in my prayers. Oh God bless America.

  2. Tim Harris says:

    I suppose “rewriting” could mean “setting the record straight,” though usually it has the opposite connotation.

    The original KKK was a most necessary institution, being a citizen militia that arose to protect the women in the South. The difference between Southern men then, even after a crushing defeat, and Americans today, even in world domination, is that those men were willing to put their lives at risk to protect their women and little ones. While, we have allowed sinister invading forces to completely infiltrate and ruin our society, and do nothing, as long as the sports channel is still working.

    After I learned the truth about the first KKK, I too used to denigrate the subsequent ones by way of making a distinction. However, it turns out that the second KKK was quite legitimate in its founding as well. (Perhaps not the 3rd and subsequent ones, I now say!) This had to do with the orchestrated national media and jewish money bringing about the exoneration of rapist-murderer Leo Frank, just because he was a jew.

    Southerners (and many northerners too, especially along the southern rim of the midwest) still had some honor and some spirit left, even in 1920.

    • vee says:

      “The original KKK was a most necessary institution, being a citizen militia that arose to protect the women in the South.”

      Protect the women in the South from what? Breaking out in a sweat while drinking magnolia tea?

      “While, we have allowed sinister invading forces to completely infiltrate and ruin our society, and do nothing, as long as the sports channel is still working”

      You’re lucky. The Native Indians didn’t have any sports channels.

  3. Gary,

    Given that you must be aware of the Christian founding of the Klan as well as well as the important distinction between a pre and post 1920 Klan, why does your synopsis of the movie employ the guilt-by-KKK-association fallacy? The Christian men who founded the organization were defenders of their Southern faith and heritage. They justly fought against carpetbaggers, scalawags, and armed men from the wicked Union League.

    Also, how exactly did the movie re-write the history of the South and Lincoln’s war when that was already done by the Northern political hegemony’s Reconstruction laws and propaganda machine? Have you even watched the film?

    Do you really stand by what you wrote? Or is this just a bu$ine$$ move?

    • Gary DeMar says:

      Are you telling me that “Birth of a Nation” portrays Southern History accurately?

      • Shotgun says:

        Dr. DeMar,

        After re-watching the above clip a few times, I realize that, strictly speaking, there isn’t much said that I disagree with.

        Nevertheless, there are two things that are disagreeable about this video:

        1. Even though what is said may be strictly accurate, (IE: The movie shaped people’s views and contributed to racial attitudes and fears) what is objectionable is the way these “facts” are spoken of with an underlying (and implied) derision. (For example: EVERYONE has racial attitudes and, arguably, “fear” is justified in many cases today, perhaps the movie was doing our ancestors a service in warning them? But judging by the tone of your commentary, it seems likely that you would disagree.)

        2. (This is the big one) you imply that the movie was an attempt at historical revisionism.

        No one here, (I think), would argue that Dixon’s story was an attempt at historical narrative. However I would argue that Dixon managed to capture the spirit of the times, at least as it concerned the attitudes and actions of the Ku Klux Klan. There is much to quibble with in Dixon’s account, (like his unrealistic portrayal of Abraham Lincoln) certainly.

        But if we’re going to bus school children to the movie theater to show them something, I’d much rather it be the “Birth of a Nation” than any of the movies I was shown (like, “Roots” which does NOT accurately portray the spirit of the times and is a blatant attempt at propaganda).

      • Lea Davidson says:

        Mr. DeMar,

        Respected historians such as James Ford Rhodes and William Archibald Dunning accepted the view that was presented by “The Birth Of A Nation .” Indeed, the case can be made that the work of Rhodes and Dunning was closely followed by the film in question. In 1907 Dunning published a critical study on Radical Republicanism in the South titled “Reconstruction” in which he makes the case that blacks in state legislatures were corrupt, irresponsible, and incapable of governing. Dunning, a professor at Columbia University, taught and mentored many students from the South, who in turn published a variety of historical monographs that castigated the North for forcing Radical Reconstruction on the South and placing despicable, uneducated, and corrupt blacks in control of the political system. These studies formed what was called the Dunning school of Reconstruction interpretation, which became the standard and accepted view of Reconstruction for nearly half a century.

        Now, Eric Foner came along with a Marxist interpretation of that era of History and the Foner school is still much in vogue. What would we expect from a Marxist interpretation except that White Christian Southerners were evil and that Jacobin Northerners and their black foot soldiers were the heroes?

  4. K.L. Robbins says:

    Joey, You missed the point of my complaint. I complained that Gary Demar declared the film and book an attempt to rewrite Southern and Civil War history. Every story has two sides, believe which ever side you wish. But with an event that changed the entire course of a country, one that 150 years later still affects us. You need to learn both sides as much as you can. As for Southern racial attitudes learn what happened in the South during Reconstruction. Gary Demars little essay was intended to do one thing only. Marginalize the Southern side of our own history.

  5. K.L. Robbins says:

    Explain, Gary Demar why you call it rewriting history when a Southerner like Griffin or Dixon write a book or make a film about that war. You speak of the Reconstruction Era KKK. But you don’t say a word about the Loyal Union League and its dirty deeds. As for Woodrow Wilson and his comments about the film perhaps just perhaps he remembered the dirty dirty deeds of Shermans army of criminals and worse since he lived in Augusta Ga. at that time.

  6. Joey says:

    The end of the Civil War rendered the final judgment on the War a long time ago. The individual judgments of the people involved are in the hands of God. A lot of sad things happened during that time. Was Rev. Ross a relative of yours, Mr Robbins? More than half of my male ancestors of that era never did go back to their earthly homes! I leave that to God’s grace.

    I am glad for the insight, Mr DeMar. I found an old copy of The Clansman a while back and thought it quite a curiosity. I have not read it more than a quick scan. I know about The Birth of Nations movie but did not make the connection. I will write the information you have provided inside the cover.

  7. K.L. Robbins says:

    Perhaps its time to tell the true history of that war. And it will be told because truth always comes to the surface. The internet has begun to dispute the despicable liars who have slandered Southerns for so long. Here is an example of civil war truth Gary. In Huntsville Alabama in 1862 yankee Gen. Rousseau arrested the Rev. Frederick A. Ross for praying a disloyal prayer. This is what Ross Prayed,”We pray thee O Lord to bless our enemies and to remove them from our midst as soon as seemeth good in thy sight”. He was sent North and not released until 1865. A good many people need to study the Ninth Commandment.

    • Thank you Mr. Robbins for setting the record straight on some of the issues Mr. DeMar raises in his article. I would suggest people read the “Politically Incorrect Guide to American History” by Thomas Woods. Also, the book “Southern By the Grace of God” by Michael Andrew Grissom (Pelican publishers) is a good introduction to Southern history. God bless you and the ministry of American Vision. Matt. 6:33.

Back to Top ↑