The races were both formally and unofficially divided into a strict hierarchy. White males were at the top of that hierarchy, and other races were below him. By 2006 America had been transformed, but as the present discussions surrounding undocumented workers illustrate, racial tension will never be far away from the surface of American political, cultural and social life.
The racial situation in America at the time of Birth of a Nation (1915) was far removed from that which exists today, despite the fact that problems still exist in 2006. Birth of a Nation was based on a racist play, The Clansman, written in 1905 by a North Carolina Baptist minister, Thomas Dixon. The film tells of the beginning, middle and aftermath of the Civil War and has what has often been described as a vicious and degrading view of African-Americans. In the film they are often viewed as either "happy slaves" working in the fields (with no sign of a whip in sight), loyal house slaves or child-like, grinning close-ups of uncertain intelligence:
Racist laws currently in place at the time of its release led to a series of scenes being cut from the film, such as that between a mulatto slave and her white master. Abraham Lincoln is portrayed as a bumbling traitor to his race while black men are either mindless clowns and/or potential rapists. ...Show more