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Aiken Lecture: Dick Lehr, The Birth of A Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America’s Civil War
Atlanta History Center, Thursday, November 6 at 8pm
In 1915, two men—one a journalist agitator, the other a technically brilliant filmmaker—incited a public confrontation that roiled America, pitting black against white, Hollywood against Boston, and free speech against civil rights. Monroe Trotter and D.W. Griffith fought over the nation’s first blockbuster film, Birth of a Nation, a film that dramatized the Civil War and Reconstruction in a post-Confederate South and transformed the still-young America in profound ways.

Violent protests against the film flared up across the country. Monroe Trotter, a Boston newspaper editor and African-American rights activist, had stood up to wage a battle on every possible stage across the nation to halt the spread of the movie. This was a revolutionary moment for an increasingly diversified nation struggling to define its identity, where citizens battled not only over the future of cinema, mass media, and marketing, but for American civil liberties and the nascent Civil Rights Movement.

Dick Lehr, a professor of journalism at Boston University and author of The Birth of A Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America’s Civil War, was a reporter at the Boston Globe for nearly two decades. He has won numerous national and regional journalism awards, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in investigative reporting. He is the author of The Fence: A Police Cover-up Along Boston's Racial Divide, a Boston Globe bestseller; and coauthor of the New York Times bestseller and Edgar Award winner Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal, and its sequel Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss.

Support: The Aiken Lecture Series is supported by the Lucy Rucker Aiken Foundation.

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