The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Adapted from Thomas Dixon Jr.’s 1905 novel and play The Clansman, The Birth of a Nation chronicles the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth and the relationship of two families —the pro-Union (Northern) Stonemans and the pro-Confederacy (Southern) Camerons — during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras over the course of several years.
The silent drama movie made it to the list of most controversial films of all time because of its depiction of African Americans (many of whom are played by white actors in blackface) as unintelligent and sexually aggressive toward white women. The film’s portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) as a heroic and necessary force to preserve American values and the white supremacist social order also sparked outrage among African Americans and other minority groups.
Despite all the controversy, The Birth of a Nation performed well at the box office, grossing $16.7 million worldwide against a production budget of $8. Million.