"The Birth of a Nation" premiered on January 1, 1915. It was D.W. Griffith's first feature length film.
The final cut of The Birth of a Nation ran nearly three hours and showcased cutting-edge filmmaking techniques for the time, including multiple camera angles. Despite the controversy (which included attempts to ban the film entirely), The Birth of a Nation would become the first true Hollywood blockbuster, earning more than $10 million (the equivalent of $200 million today) as audiences lined up to pay the unprecedented rate of $2 per ticket.
Today, of course, this movie could not be shown anywhere, but consider this:
1) in 1871, Congress passed the Klan Act. Over the next several years, the Klan largely disappears and is replaced by other violent white supremacist groups.
2) In the same year that the movie was released, A Georgia lynch mob led by William J. Simmons—and including numerous prominent (but anonymous) members of the community, such as former Georgia Gov. Joe Brown—murders Jewish factory superintendent Leo Frank, then burns a cross on a hilltop and dubs itself the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
3) Lynchings in America peaked between the 1890's and the 1920". According to the Tuskegee Institute, 4,743 people were lynched between 1882 and 1968 in the United States, including 3,446 African Americans and 1,297 whites.
4) The Tulsa race riots occurred in 1921, 6 years after the film was released.
5) In 1923, 200,000 members of the Klan met in Kokomo, Indiana, To this day, it is the largest meeting ever held by the Klan. Half of the residents of the town were members of the KKK. The Grand Dragon of the day, David Curtis Stephenson, later was convicted of the murder of Ginny Oberholzer, and the Klan became much less popular after that.
Ironically, the theater where "The Birth of a Nation" premiered also is the location where another Civil War movie, "Gone With the Wind" premiered in 1939.
6) In 1927, Fred Trump was arrested at a Klan rally in New York. The charges, however , were quickly dismissed. Although it was never proved that he was a KKK member, the fact remains that he (and The Donald) were convicted in 1973 for violating the Fair Housing Act.