The Birth of a Nation (1915) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The Stoneman family finds its friendship with the Camerons affected by the Civil War, both fighting in opposite armies. The development of the war in their lives plays through to Lincoln's assassination and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.

  • Two brothers, Phil and Ted Stoneman, visit their friends in Piedmont, South Carolina: the family Cameron. This friendship is affected by the Civil War, as the Stonemans and the Camerons must join up opposite armies. The consequences of the War in their lives are shown in connection to major historical events, like the development of the Civil War itself, Lincoln's assassination, and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.

  • In 1860, the Stoneman and Cameron families are part of the aristocracy, Austin Stoneman a powerful U.S. Congressman, the Cameron father a respected physician. The Stonemans live in the Pennsylvania countryside when Austin is not in Washington, while the Camerons live in Piedmont, South Carolina. Phil Stoneman and Ben Cameron, the eldest son of each respective family, are old school chums. When Phil and his younger brother Tod Stoneman visit Ben in Piedmont, Phil falls in love with Ben's eldest sister, Margaret Cameron, while Ben falls in love with the Stoneman's only sister, Elsie Stoneman, after only seeing her photograph. The Stoneman brothers' trip is cut short with the start of the Civil War. Despite being on opposing sides, the Stonemans and Camerons' friendship is not diminished, even in direct battles, which results in casualties in both families. Following the war and the assassination of President Lincoln, Austin, in a position of greater power and wanting to advance the cause of the blacks, appoints biracial Silas Lynch to rally the black vote in the south. This move is followed by the Stonemans' move to Piedmont, a more favorable climate for Austin's failing health. The move strengthens the romances between Phil and Margaret, and between Elsie and Ben. But Lynch, also based in Piedmont, has other things on his mind. An incident between a renegade black man named Gus and the Camerons' youngest daughter, Flora Cameron, begins an uprising of the Ku Klux Klan to protect the dwindling white power. The Camerons' support of the Clan threatens Elsie and Ben's relationship until...

  • D.W. Griffith's epic tale of the American civil war, told primarily from the perspective of the South. The story is nominally that of two families, one from the north, the other the south, and the challenges they face during the war. Heavily slanted in favor of the Confederates, who are noble and right, against the Yankees who are degenerate and without scruples. When black Union troops take over the town of Piedmont, South Carolina the Ku Klux Klan becomes the white population's saviors.

  • The movie is adapted from Thomas Dixon' s novel " The clansman". In 1860, a great parliamentary leader, called Austen Stoneman, was rising to the power in the National House of the representatives. In the Southland, in South Caroline, in Piedmont town, there is the Camerons ' family of landowners. The eldest son, Ben Cameron, finds the ideals of his dreams in the picture of Elsie Stoneman, his friend' s sister, whom he has never seen. . US president Abraham Lincoln for the first time in history calls volunteers to enforce the rule of the coming nation over the individual states during the Civil war. An irregular force of guerrillas raids Piedmont. The youngest Cameron dies in war embraced by his partner. Elsie Stoneman goes as nurse in the military hospital. The second son of Cameron dead: at the news the sister is petrified and cries. The radical leaders protest against Lincoln's policy of clemency for the South. In the night of 14 April 1865 there is a gala performance in theatre to celebrate the surrender of General Lee and Lincoln is invited , too. There is a riot and the president is murdered. Ben Cameron forms a group of white men, the Ku Klux Klan, who wants to be superior to blacks. The members of Ku Klux Klan kill a black man who shot a white man to defend him and others. Elsie learns her brother has slain a black man in the rescue of Dr. Cameron. Elsie goes to a political leader, Lynch, that want a marriage with her, but Elsie doesn' t want and try to resist Lynch's advances. The Ku Klux Klan sails and plays the charge.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The first half of the film begins before the Civil War, explaining the introduction of slavery to America before jumping into battle. Two families, the northern Stonemans and the Southern Camerons, are introduced. The story is told through these two families and often their servants, epitomizing the worst racial stereotypes. As the nation is torn apart by war, the slaves and their abolitionist supporters are seen as the destructive force behind it all.

    The film's racism grows even worse in its second half, set during Reconstruction and featuring the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, introduced as the picture's would-be heroes. The fact that Griffith jammed a love story in the midst of his recreated race war is absolutely audacious. It's thrilling and disturbing, often at the same time.

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