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Birth of a Nation by Raymond Speer

Author says: what if the movie "Birth of a Nation" was filmed in an alternate timeline where the Confederacy won out? Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

In 1915, the motion picture BIRTH OF A NATION was released after almost a year in production. Its director, David Wark Griffith, the son of a CS calvary officer who grew up in modest circumstances, predicted that the most popular film that could shown in the United States and the Confederate States would be an account of how the two countries came to be rivals.

Griffith and his film makers and actors staged most of the movie in the Canadian province of Ontario. The gray "Confederate" uniforms were more accurately a dirty white, not gray, and the cinematagrapher of the film would recall that the costumes of the Northerners was more usually brown than blue.

The highlight of the first half hour of the movie was the enactment of Pickett's Charge (on what appears to be a potato field). For the first time in recorded fable, General Lo Armistead is shown standing atop a federal cannon. his hat stuck on the top of his upraised sword, gesturing heroically towards the now fleeing foe. (In fact, Armistead was gutshot when he reached the guns and died in a doctor's hut the next day).

According to the plot, an honest but poor couple have been divided by the war. Reflection on the plight of that couple causes Jeff Davis of the Confederacy and Abraham Lincoln of the Union to realize that harmony across the border is best for both people, and the movie ends with an open air wedding ceremony of the young couple which is mutually conducted by Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant.

Contemporary journalism records that Confederate President Woodrow Wilson said the movie was like writing history with lightning. United States President Henry Cabot Lodge criticized the movie's insinuation that the South had militarily thrashed the North on the third day of Gettysburg.

Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford starred in the sequel, BONDS OF BROTHERHOOD (1922), in which Yanks and Southrons are depicted as natural lovers during the First World War. The box office was poor in large measure due to the outbreak of the Japanese- Confederate War over a canal in Central America in 1923 and 1924.

Author says insightful comment from guest historian Michael N. Ryan: I found the original or actual Birth of a Nation utterly repugnant due to the way it portrayed blacks which is what Woodrow Wilson and his crowd approved. I thought it would have been interesting if the Mulatto gang boss in demanding to marry a white woman made his point clear in that his reason of justification being his being Half White himself which would be an interesting argument for the times in which the film was made. But ultimately a film or novel is as good as its content and historical accuracy and the way it is done. I find much of DW Griffith\'s work most lacking and some of his characterizations offensive.

To view guest historian's comments on this post please visit the Today in Alternate History web site.

Other Contemporary Stories

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Raymond Speer

Guest Historian on Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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