More on Plantation films

More on Plantation films:

Plantation films

In the early twentieth century, Hollywood films portrayed the South as a land filled with loyal, contented slaves. This trend continued for decades with silent films such as Confederate Spy (1910) and For Massa’s Sake (1911).

D.W. Griffith’s silent film The Birth of a Nation (1915) sparked controversy by portraying black men, played by white actors in blackface, as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women. The Ku Klux Klan was also depicted as a heroic force. Although many white audiences acclaimed the film, it provoked African-American protests and the NAACP mounted an unsuccessful campaign to have it banned.

For mainstream white audiences, these early works depicted the slavery of nostalgia and promoted a mythologised past. Plantation epics such as The Little Colonel (1935), The Littlest Rebel (1935) and Gone with the Wind (1939) reinforced all the slave stereotypes of American folklore. History was rewritten as a reaction to a new generation of African-Americans, whose aspirations and assertive attitudes both frightened and enraged white America.

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