On Wednesday, Nov 6 Dr. Paul McEwan brought a community of academics together to learn about “The Birth of A Nation.” McEwan is an associate professor of media and communication and director of film studies at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His presentation related to the topic of the film “The Birth of a Nation”, the racism it exerts, and it’s dramatic elements of cinema. Through his hard work, McEwan has applied what he has studied to create a new book on the film.
Over 100 students attended the event and were joined by members of the faculty. This was the 3rd academic speaker of the semester, also it had the largest turnout. Dr. Jeff Longacre introduced McEwan. Longacre is an Assistant professor who teaches composition courses, as well as upper division English courses.
A screening of the movie on campus took place on Oct 29 at 6 p.m. in the Humanities auditorium, and was presented by Dr. Jeff Longacre. This movie gave students the opportunity to become familiar with the picture before attending the seminar.
The movie was originally screened in 1915, and resulted in immediate backlash from the NAACP. The film follows the story of two families torn apart by the Civil War and reconstruction in the United States. McEwan began his presentation by playing a clip from the film. In the clip, the Ku Klux Klan is depicted as being heroic and saving the lives of a family being attacked by African Americans. This depiction shows no African American actors. Each actor being presented as African American had painted faces, a racist act called “black face.” Racism was a key topic, as McEwan explained why this film is important historically. “The Birth of a Nation” began the tradition of taking movies which revolve around real events, and fictionalizing them.
McEwen’s presentation held an important lesson for those in the audience. Our country was one of great racial intolerance only a century ago. This is a fact that so many are quick to forget in a day where justice is taken for granted.