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“At This Time in This City”: Black Atlanta and the Première of The Birth of a Nation

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In the Shadow of The Birth of a Nation
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Abstract

The Birth of a Nation was protested widely, not just in northern cities like Boston and New York but in many cities of the South. Curiously, Atlanta, the self-proclaimed Gate City to the South, saw no widespread, concerted public effort to ban Griffith’s epic either before or during its infamous white-only debut on December 6, 1915, though there were, as in some other locales, behind-the-door pleas not to show it or at least postpone its exhibition. Why, in a major southern city with well-established, socially active Black churches, and Black institutions of higher learning, as well as a growing middle class, and even a few white allies, was the response so relatively cautious and measured? This essay explores the historical context for the Atlanta quiet.

We have long known, thanks to the groundbreaking work of Thomas Cripps in the late 1970s, that sizeable protests greeted D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation upon its premiere in various major locales.

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Correspondence to Matthew H. Bernstein .

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Bernstein, M.H. (2023). “At This Time in This City”: Black Atlanta and the Première of The Birth of a Nation. In: Stokes, M., McEwan, P. (eds) In the Shadow of The Birth of a Nation. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-04737-4_10

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