I applaud all projects that involve digitalization of media, whether it be old newspapers or audiovisual. Everyone should have the right to study history, as I argued in my previous post. Do you want to know what Rev. Dr. Charles H. Pankhurst had to say about D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation in El Paso Herald (Texas) in 1916? Let's see!
[Do your own searching at Library of Congress. There you can find digitalized American newspapers from 1860 to 1922. Click on the "Search Pages" button, and write whatever you are looking for. I could sit there for hours.]
"A boy can learn more true history and get more of the atmosphere of the period by sitting down for three hours before the film which Mr. Griffith has produced with such artistic skill than by weeks and months of study in the classroom."
Well, about that... If I remember correctly, that film is not really historically correct? And wasn't it, if I'm not mistaken, kind of... racist? Dr. Pankhurst explains:
"The criticism that it exhibits the negro in an unfortunate light and that it is calculated to engender racial animosity is fully met by the consideration that it represents the negro, not as he is now at all, but as he was in the days when he had just had the chains broken from him and when he was rioting in the deliciousness of a liberty so new and untried that he had not yet learned to understand it and was as ignorant as a baby of the way to use it. It is in this respect exactly true to history, and if it reflects upon the negro as he was then it is a compliment to the black man of today."
Oh, I'm glad Dr. Pankhurst solved those misunderstandings! He has obviously also checked that all facts represented in the film corresponds with facts, since he claims that "[o]n Griffith's screen we see the real thing." Like he said before: schools should show this film when teaching about the Civil War!
And how did the audience react upon viewing this spectacle? Except for them being so excited that Dr. Pankhurst had "been crowded upon, pressed down and run over"?
"Every eye was dim with tears in the strangling hush that fell on the theater. What might not our country have been saved had the problem of reconstruction been left to the great heart - the one man who compassed within himself the resources of the intelligence, experience, breadth and sympathy of Abraham Lincoln!
'The Birth of a Nation' has my unqualified approval."
You can find Dr. Pankhurst's entire review here.