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This Week In Chicago Entertainment History:”The Birth Of A Nation”

*Chicago has a rich history in film and in 1907 it became one of the first cities to censor movies. In order to exhibit a film a permit was required and if one was denied a permit the movie would be required to be edited to meet the censor’s standards.  If a permit was not gained then the movie would be removed from the theater. The Illinois Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Chicago’s code in 1909.

In 1915 when D.W. Griffith produced and directed “The Birth of A Nation”  it created huge controversy upon release due to it’s explicit racism.  **The film was solely based on a play written by a Baptist minister in North Carolina named Rev. Thomas Dixon Jr. and his anti-black 1905 staged play “The Clansman”.  The vicious portrayal of blacks in the  movie provoked the NAACP to take action for its removal from Chicago Theaters.  A ban on the film was granted shortly thereafter by mayor William Hale Thompson. FonduTV found a version below of the film that is quite ancient obviously because of it’s age.

Now this and many other types of censorship continued for many decades until finally fading away in the early 1970’s. The Chicago Censorship board was not effective in the same way thus allowing Chicago residents to attend various movies in theaters regardless of the genre or content.  There is no doubt that these types of laws can still be seen today in the Motion Picture Association of America.

*Encyclopedia of Chicago

**AMC Filmsite Tim Dirks


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