chapter  1
23 Pages

Black American Cinema: The New Realism: Manthia Diawara

The release of D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation in 1915 defined for the first time the side that Hollywood was to take in the war to represent Black people in America. In The Birth of a Nation, D. W. Griffith, later a founding member of United Artists, created and fixed an image of Blackness that was necessary for racist America's fight against Black people. The Birth of a Nation constitutes the grammar book for Hollywood's representation of Black manhood and womanhood, its obsession with miscegenation, and its fixing of Black people within certain spaces, such as kitchens, and into certain supporting roles, such as criminals, on the screen. White people must occupy the center, leaving Black people with only one choice-to exist in relation to Whiteness. The Birth of a Nation is the master text that suppressed the real contours of Black history and culture on movie screens, screens monopolized by the major motion picture companies of America.