Fighting a Movie with Lightning : „The Birth of a Nation" and the Black Community.Publisher: Hamburg : Diplomica Verlag, 2013Copyright date: ©2014Edition: 1st edDescription: 1 online resource (96 pages)Content type:
- online resource
- E185.615 -- .L38 2014eb
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Fighting a Movie with Lightning -- Table of Contents -- List of Figures -- 1. Introduction -- 2. The Nadir -- 2.1. Legal Discrimination -- 2.2. Violent Discrimination -- 2.3. Cultural Discrimination -- 3. Political Influence -- 3.1. Organizing and Uniting -- 3.2. Militant Actions -- 4. Cultural Influence -- 4.1. First Attempts -- 4.2. Within Our Gates -- 5. Conclusion -- 6. Bibliography -- 6.1 Primary Sources -- 6.2. Secondary Sources -- 6.3. Sources Figures -- 7. Appendix.
Despite their efforts, black activists throughout the early 20th century were not able to achieve full equality and fair treatment in society. However, they gained a new way of thinking that resulted in the formation of the 'New Negro'. This term, in essence, designates a new way of thinking in the black community. Its members were neither satisfied with, nor accepted their inferior position in society and were willing to fight for their rights. Phenomena that paradoxically had a positive impact on the black community as a whole, and especially on the New Negro, were the actions undertaken by African Americans all over the United States in response to D.W. Griffith's racist 1915 silent movie The Birth of a Nation. It is the aim of this paper to prove that these activities undertaken by African Americans and their supporters in the early 20th century against The Birth of a Nation influenced and shaped the black community as a whole, but especially the notion of the New Negro, both politically and culturally. Auszug aus dem Text Text sample: Chapter 3, Political Influence: 'we have got to take hold of this problem [black inequality] ourselves, and make so much noise that all the world shall know the wrongs we suffer and our determination to right those wrongs.' Timothy Thomas Fortune. Before analyzing the extent to which The Birth of a Nation influenced the black community, and especially the New Negro, both politically and culturally, the term itself needs to be clarified in more detail. In the introduction, it was already stated that the New Negro is characterized by a new kind of thinking among African Americans. This new conscience differs greatly from the notion of the 'Old Negro', which is similar to the Uncle Tom-like colored servants of the Cameron family. They are submissive, admire whites and do not ask for any improvement to their
current situation. The New Negro, however, stands for progress and is not submissive to white people, but is instead an independent 'self-conscious, aspiring, proud young man', with a strengthened black identity, who aims for full and equal civil rights in all spheres of life. The emergence of this self-consciousness that African Americans gained cannot be pinpointed to a particular date. Already in 1894, Reverend W. E. C. Wright was referring to the New Negro. During this time, however, African Americans were not able to strongly fight for equality, nor break free of their dependency on whites. However, one main catalyst, the Great Migration of African Americans that took place in the early 20th century, created an environment that made the advancement of the New Negro possible. Blacks started to move and migrate to other parts of the US when the Civil War came to a close. The highest numbers of migrants, however, can be seen in the time during, and shortly, after World War I. With regard to these numbers, the north-eastern movement is of importance, as the New Negro was most active in this region. As can be seen in Figures 9 and 10, between 1890 and 1900 about 115000 African Americans moved northward. The following decade records a similar number (see Figure 11). Between 1910 and 1920, however, this number rises to almost 200000 African Americans (see Figure 12). The reason for this increase in the northward migration pattern of blacks can easily be explained by the push and pull factors they faced. African Americans faced various push factors, issues they were not willing to live with and that finally drove them out of the South. The famous civil rights spokesman W. E. B. Du Bois said that most of the blacks leaving wanted 'to escape hunger and insult, the hand of oppression, and the shadow of death.' Moreover, many black farmers suffered crop
failures and flooding which worsened the economic conditions in the South and finally resulted in a labor depression in 1914. Besides the above-mentioned push factors, various pull factors attracted blacks to the northern parts of the US. In particular, big cities, such as New York and Chicago, at that time promised a better living for African Americans, since they provided a lot of labor opportunities and higher wages. Moreover, with the beginning of World War I, the war industry boomed in the northern parts of the US and, due to the labor shortage because of the fighting soldiers, a constant need for working men and women existed. The situation blacks faced in the north was not perfect, but for many of them it was preferable to their former Southern homes. They had more chance of obtaining work and would receive better payment, thus ensuring a higher standard of living for their families. Free of the fear of starvation and harsh poverty, and in possession of more economic freedom, many African Americans in the north began to think about their status in society. These thinkers started to create organizations that reflected the aims of the New Negro. They did not want to be suppressed anymore but to live on equal terms with white citizens. They began to proclaim their new consciousness, first through political, and later with the help of cultural means. The New Negro became most active between 1920 and 1930, a time that is also known as The New Negro Movement, or more commonly, as Harlem Renaissance. This part of the paper will prove that The Birth of a Nation caused African Americans to initiate radical political activity in the US that reflected and influenced the New Negro in a formative and lasting way. At the very least, since the political action took place before the peak of the New Negro in the 1920s, it must be assumed that the
wide-reaching political counteractions were jointly responsible for the formation of the Harlem Renaissance. Moreover, since most African Americans went to the northern part of the US during the Great Migration, as they gained more freedom and opportunities there, it comes as no surprise that the political New Negro was most active in the northern states. These radical undertakings were justified by the black community. In William Monroe Trotters opinion, an African American civil rights leader who was mostly active in Boston, the movie 'is a rebel play […] and [it] will have white men all stirred up.' Trotter was right in his assumption that the movie might anger whites. One young boy, after seeing the film, was influenced by the race hatred the movie portrays and claimed that 'I'd like to kill every nigger I know.' Moreover, another man, after witnessing the movie, reacted in a more drastic way and shot a black student. Fearing other acts of violence such as these, and being bothered by their negative portrayal in the movie, African Americans chose to fight the film by new and improved political means, which were still of importance during the Civil Rights movement. All the points discussed in the following will affirm the central assertion that The Birth of a Nation influenced and reflected the black community of the 20th century, especially the New Negro in a political way. Biographische Informationen Stefanie Laufs, M.A., was born in Bad Langensalza in 1987. She studied American Studies at the Universität Leipzig and the Freie Universität Berlin. The author received a Master's degree in 2012. During her studies, she specialized in American culture and history. A trip to Louisiana motivated her to write about the topic at hand.
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