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I have such mixed feelings about this film. I am glad I watched it. "The Birth of a Nation" is a well made, sweeping tale of the Civil War and the Reconstruction era that followed. It is beautfully shot and well acted. The battle scenes are compelling and well constructed. It is also the most racist thing I have ever seen. No book, film, television show or any other form of entertainment I have witnessed comes close to this level of racism. The film is three hours long, and it is divided into two sections. The first part ends with the assasination of President Lincoln. There is racism in the first half, including white actors in blackface portraying black characters, but it is the second half that takes the film's racism to unbelievable levels. I think it is important to see this film to realize how far America has come in race relations, and to contemplate how far we still need to go. Simply refusing to see a film such as this because of the blatant racism is denying this part of our history. Yes, it is an ugly part of American history, but racism existed, and still exists, and this movie brings home that message in a way that will make comtemporary viewers squirm. Roger Ebert wrote an excellent review of the film. In it, he compares "The Birth of a Nation," to another D.W. Griffith film, also starring Lillian Gish, called "Broken Blossoms." Ebert prefers the latter, which prompted me to watch two silent films from the early 1900s on the same night. I also preferred "Broken Blossoms," and highly recommend seeing it. And I recommend watching "The Birth of a Nation" as well. It was the first film screened at the White House, by President Woodrow Wilson. It is historically significant. It is also downright difficult to watch at times, particularly because D.W. Griffith did not see himself as a racist, and sadly, neither did the American moviegoers who embraced this film and its message in 1915.
Four and a half months after the Union Major General George Meade's Army of the Potomac repelled the attacks of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln delivered this short, moving speech at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA. Though only about two minutes long, this remains one of the most stirring speeches in American history. You should always be able to remember when it was given by starting in 1776, and then adding "four score and seven years," which will add 87 years and take you into 1863, the heart of the American Civil War. Why am I writing this? In hopes that one person will read it, and get something out of it. I, for one, did not know about either the "Army of the Potomac" or the "Army of Northern Virginia" (I mean, I "knew" about them, but I didn't recall their exact names). Northern Virginia! By clicking on these links, and continuing to study in depth, you could spend a lifetime learning about any number of things, all worth your time and effort. Actually, I was watching "Four O'Clock" - a Twilight Zone Season 3 Episode - and happened to notice the Gettysburg Address posted on a wall, and was for some reason moved to read it aloud, slowly, and then to write about it here. The speech itself, in its entirety.