The Birth of a Nation, released in 1915, is a film full of racist images. White people, many in blackface, portray (and denigrate) black people as dangerous and unintelligent. The Ku Klux Klan is glorified. The film was wildly popular with white audiences who cared nothing about its racism.
The film has also been studied for years, not only for its reflection of certain ideas at the time, but for its use of film techniques such as fade-outs that were unheard-of until the film but became standard. Many film experts have called the film a technically brilliant work of horrifically bigoted ideas. The American Film Institute includes the film among the "100 greatest American movies of all time."
But should it hold a place of honor in a film school?
In March, Arri Caviness, a film student at Chapman University, gathered a group of fellow students and posed for a Facebook photo around a poster from the film (above). Two posters from the film were up on walls in the Chapman film school, along with other historic movie posters.
"Why does Dodge College of Film & Media Arts, The Hollywood Reporter's 6th best U.S. film school, still condone the celebration of white supremacy?" Caviness's Facebook post asked.