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Art for EqualityThe NAACPs Cultural Campaign for Civil Rights$
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Jenny Woodley

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813145167

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813145167.001.0001

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The Birth of a Cultural Strategy

The Birth of a Cultural Strategy

(p.11) 1 The Birth of a Cultural Strategy
Art for Equality

Jenny Woodley

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter uses the campaign against the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation as a case study to establish the key principles of the NAACP's cultural strategy. Its bitter and often unsuccessful decades-long struggle against the film tells us much about the association's attitude toward culture and about the ways it would try to influence the depiction of African Americans. The NAACP protested against the film's offensive racial stereotypes, arguing that they undermined black demands for civil rights and could even incite racial violence. D. W. Griffith's production was particularly troubling because of its claims of historical accuracy. The association and its growing number of local branches lobbied city officials and censorship boards for the film to be banned. This tactic of censorship was largely ineffective and alienated potential allies. It suggests that African Americans had very limited options when challenging popular culture.

Keywords:   The Birth of a Nation, Censorship, Popular culture, Racial stereotypes

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