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“Damage unwittingly done”: D.W. Griffith and the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan

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On January 10 1923, W. N. Kramer, the publisher of Spotlight, an anti-Klan newspaper in Minneapolis, wrote these words in a telegram to D.W. Griffith, challenging him to respond to his earlier work and to “paint the Ku Klux Klan in its true light”. The Klan would also closely reference and rework particular images from the film, and when it began producing, distributing, and exhibiting its own pictures at the height of its powers in the 1920s, Birth would become a touchstone for this “Klan cinema”. In this instance, Spotlight referred to the “damage unwittingly done”, seemingly exonerating Griffith of responsibility for the film's afterlife. So, by 1923, the moment when Kramer wrote to Griffith asking him to “undo the damage unwittingly done”, Birth had become the central component of, and a generative text for, the Klan's propaganda.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to D.W. Griffith
EditorsCharlie Keil
ISBN (Electronic)9781118341056
ISBN (Print)9781118341254
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2017

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