It certainly had not ended on February 8, 1915, when the silent movie The Birth of a Nation was released. The movie is still controversial today, 100 years later.
It is rarely publicly screened in its entirety. Why?
It was a groundbreaking movie in many ways.
In an era where movies normally didn't run more than 20 minutes, this was the first movie "blockbuster" - at 3 hours and 10 minutes.
I am not a film expert, but it pioneered many film techniques still used today, including techniques used for battle scenes.
It was the first movie ever screened at our President's residence, the White House.
It was the highest grossing movie ever until Gone with the Wind (another Civil War movie, and a movie celebrating its 75th anniversary this year - it was released in January, 1940).
Theaters charged admission of up to $2 - or, $47, in 2015 dollars.
It has been referred to, in some way, in many movies, including Forrest Gump.
So you would think we should all go out and see this movie. And perhaps we all should, but not just for those reasons.
When seeking to understand history, we must explore the influence of books and other media in shaping our perceptions. Think of the book Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe. This book, published in 1852, horrified many with its depiction of American slavery. It changed the world for the better. It is still in print today.
The Birth of a Nation did just the opposite. It was one of the most racist movies of all time. I have only seen clips, but they were enough to turn my 2015-era stomach. Black legislators in South Carolina eating fried chicken and taking their shoes off as they laugh and pass legislation demeaning to white people. (Footnote, major black characters were portrayed by whites in blackface.) White women endangered by former slaves, and saved by the Ku Klux Klan. No surprise; it was used as a recruitment tool for racist organizations.
Many people suffered and died, indirectly, because of this movie.
It is rarely screened, but it can be seen, in its entirety, on You Tube. It is in the public domain.
So what should happen to a movie like this? Should it be censored, hidden away and never seen again? What do you think?
I do not think so. Evil must be understood, and faced head on. As troubling a movie as this is, I believe it does need to be seen, and considered in the context of 1915.
In my high school history class, we screened portions of the Nazi classic propaganda film Triumph of the Will. Why not this movie?
Here, in 2015, we should not be too proud. We can see the progress we have made since 1915, but we still have a long way to go.
We must finally end our Civil War.
Footnote: I encourage thoughtful comments, even if they disagree with me. But, if I end up getting any hateful or off topic comments as a result of this post - well, they would have just proved my point. Those WILL be deleted.)