A la Roca, Rossana Diaz le hicieron una reseña en la sección Luces de El Comercio del fin de semana. Su libro de cuentos Los Olvidados (no los de Buñuel sino los míos) se ha vendido como pan caliente en la feria del libro de Madrid. Y hasta ya le han puesto nombre a su estilo:neo bryceano.
El pollo del Pardo’s Chicken de Nueva York está buenazo. El chaufa también. Los anticuchos para chuparse el índice y el pulgar. Además queda a la vuelta del Lima`s Taste y del Chumley’s. Se puede uno decidir por el mejor cebichito de NY o el mejor pollo en la esquina de Cristopher St., antes de meterse a cualquiera de los huecos. Y el barcito Chumley’s es el lugar caleta y acogedor de siempre.
Esta mañana me pusieron una papeleta de estacionamiento. Anteayer pagué el que me clavaron hace dos meses en la casa de Alejandra. Todo por quedarme dormido una horita más. El que diga que es fácil tener auto en NY no sabe de lo que está hablando. O no le importa levantarse todas las mañanas a mover el carro ( y con suerte agarrar un espacio de vereda vacía no muy lejos) antes de las 8:30.
La venta de los chullos Parodi en la feria de Knollwod fue un éxito. Pero salieron más veloces las bufandas de Camargo. Juan se llevó cinco bufandas, la tía McHale se gastó cien dólares en chales y chullos.
La fiesta de Rachel fue tremenda bomba. Anotar: nunca mezclar vodka, ron , Cointreau y cerveza de San Francisco en una sola noche. Ls bocaditos estaban deliciosos y la música duró hasta las 5 y media de la mañana.
Acabo de recibir mi ensayo final calificado del curso de poesía: A. Y con esta nota de la profesora Patricia Cockram: Beautiful¡ I think you should submit this for an award. See the guidelines in February.
El trabajo se llama: William Carlos Williams under the influence. Borrowing from The Cantos to write the greatest American Epic.
Apenas le haga algunas correcciones que me ha indicado Cockram, publico el ensayo en el blog.
Básicamente, he encontrado varias referencias en el poema Paterson de WCW que son “tomadas” de Pound. Hay un montón de ritmo y música “prestadas” de T.S. Eliot. Pero eso es suficiente para otro ensayo. No estaría mal, si es que Williams no se hubiera pasado 40 años de su vida escribiendo Paterson y las últimas dos décadas criticando a Pound y a Eliot (dijo que The Waste Land era la mayor catástrofe de las letras de Estados Unidos. ¡Y lo copia descaradamente!)
Del curso de poesía lo más sorprendente–además de los poetas de siempre: Pound, Eliot, Yeats–, fue la lectura de ciertos poemas de WCW y de Mariane Moore. Creo que dedicamos muy poco tiempo a Wallace Stevens. Además era la última clase y había vino y bocaditos sobre la mesa…
¿Qué más? Cambié toda la ropa de cama. Por 87 dólares, cubrecama, sábanas, cobertor de 4 almohadas, protector de colchón. Arreglé mi cuerto, lavé toda la ropa de invierno.
El clima está loco. Hoy estaba caminando entre mi depa y la lavandería..en polito. ¡A mitad de diciembre!
Tengo aún que terminar el libro Count Zero y Mona Lisa Overdrive de William Gibson. Del curso de Joseph, lo mejor fue Neuromancer a ver si acabo esta semana el ensayo sobre la trilogía de The Sprawl Eso también va a estar interesante. El martes dejé mi ensayo sobre Du Bois (Ese lo voy a dejar acá en el blog) ¿Quién diría al comienzo de semestre que iba a terminar escribiendo un ensayo sobre The Birth of a Nation?
Alejandra me llamó para avisar que se va mañana a Lima. Francis llamó para saludarme (para variar, no escuché la llamada, pero dejó un mensaje…). ¿Conoceré pronto a Toby? (su conejo).
Tampoco he escrito nada sobre 12 Angry Man ¡Qué peliculón! Palimpsestos no me gustó tanto. Kumi dice que no entiende por qué a los americanos les gusta tanto Battle Royale. Hay algo cheesy en la película. Cierto. Pero me gustan este tipo de historias cuando son llevadas al cine. Y Kitano levanta toda la historia.
Bueno, es hora de largarme de esta oficina. Dejo el ensayo sobre Du Bois, The Crisis and Birth of a Nation. Nunca antes supe que la película era una apología al Ku Klux Klan. Creo que el ensayo está bastante bien fundamentado, con fuentes de Booker T. Washington, The Crisis (la principal revista de opinión de los afroamericanos een las primeras tres décadas del siglo XX) y W.E.B. Du Bois (líder afroamericano considerado en la última edición de la revista The Atlantic Monthly entre los 50 personajes más influyentes de la historia de EEUU.
Hoy tomé un desayunito buenazo en la esquina de Jerome y Bedford Park. El almuerzo-cena fueron champignones con arroz. Pensaba escribir un cuento, pero la cabeaa no me da para más. Bueno, eso es TO. El semestre está finito. La universidad está casi vacia. Tengo una A en el curso de Cockram. Eso ya lo dije. Me voy a jatear. El ensayo:

The fight of The Crisis against The Birth of a Nation.

The bringing of the African to America planted the first seed of disunion.
D.W. Griffith. The Birth of a Nation

What a woman! She had made war inevitable, fought it to the bitter end; and in the despair of a Negro reign of terror, still the prophetess and high priestess of a people, serene, undismayed and defiant, she had fitted the uniform of a Grand Dragon on her last son, and sewed in.
Thomas Dixon Jr. The Clansman

The release of The Birth of a Nation in the spring of 1915 marks one of the worst moments in the struggle of African Americans to get equal rights. The movie, loaded with historical inaccuracies about the role of black people during the Civil War and the Reconstruction period, presents the Ku Klux Klan as the heroic saviors of the South. From the editorial desk of The Crisis, W.E.B. Du Bois played a major role in fighting the movie, and its consequences.
When the news of the release of The Birth of A Nation first reached Du Bois (On January 12th according to The Crisis), he was put in one of the major dilemmas of his life. The editor of The Crisis aknowledged the disastrous blow that the movie could mean to the cause of African Americans, but fighting freedom of speech opposed his ideals. As Du Bois writes in these lines from Dusk of Dawn:
In combating this film our Association was placed in a miserable dilemma. We had to ask liberals to oppose freedom of art and expression, and it was senseless for them to reply: “Use this art in your own defense.” The cost of picture making and the scarcity of appropriate artisitic talent made any such inmediate answer beyond question (240.)

However the expenses and the lack of talented artists, Du Bois and the NAACP caressed the idea of making a movie to oppose D.W Griffith on his own terms. A few months after the release of Birth of a Nation, they found the person and the idea on Miss Elaine Sterne. The Crisis, in its october issue, announced that “a new scenario dealing with slavery, the Civil War and the period of reconstruction, will shortly be produced. “Lincoln’s Dream” is by Miss Elaine Sterne, one of the leading writers of moving picture plays in this country”. However, as Du Bois writes in Dusk of Dawn, it was a very expensive project and the NAACP never could get enough money to start the production. Even if Miss Sterne tried to keep alive the interest (she also approached Washington and his Tuskegee benefactors), after a while it flickered and Lincoln’s Dreams was never filmed.

Du Bois was also worried about the free publicity that the fight could give to Griffith’s movie. As he also notes in Dusk of Dawn, “We did what we could to stop its showing and thereby probably succeeded in advertising it even beyond its admittedly notable merits” (p.240.) Du Bois was not alone in this grievance. In the South, Booker T. Washington, who had a long history of confrontation with Thomas Dixon, the writer of Clansman who is also credited in giving the name to the movie based on his book, was having the same kind of problems trying to figure out the way to confront the movie, as cited here in this letter to his friend Charles E. Mason on April 12, published by Louis Harlan in his book Booker T. Washington 1901-1915:

My fear is that any direct opposition will result in further advertisement of the play. Opposition is a thing which I think owners want. Some years ago when the same people put another play of the same nature they actually paid colored people to oppose it for the sake of the advertisement. (432-433.)

Booker T. Washington, who on 1915 united his efforts with the NAACP to fight Birth of a Nation, was very reluctant at the beginning. He knew Dixon very well, maybe better than Du Bois. The author of The Clansman is widely credited as the one who got President Wilson’s approval of Birth of a Nation (Griffith, Wilson and Dixon know each other from their time as students at John Hopkins University). Dixon, worried about the progress of blacks and the role of Tuskegee, in 1906 offered a donation to the school if, after a public debate, Washington could prove that Tuskegee was not an instrument towards race amalgamation. As Dixon was the mastermind of the white supremacist propaganda behind Birth of a Nation, it is appropriate to quote here the entire letter sent to Washington on January 23, 1906 collected in the volume VIII of The Booker T. Washington Papers:

I invite you to debate with me in the largest Hall available in New York the question of “The Future of the Negro in America.”
The entire proceeds may go to your school and I will agree not to refer to my play “The Clansman.” The issue of Social Equality and Race Amalgamation which I asked you to meet last night in your address at Carnegie Hall is one which American people will demand that you face squarely sooner or later. Sincerely
Thomas Dixon Jr. (Volume VIII, 508-509.)

Washington always refused to answer any of Dixon letters, sure that any kind of response would just serve to advertise Dixon’s cause. Then, it is more than understable why he refused –at least at the beginning– to start any kind of fight against Birth of a Nation, as Louis Harlan notes in Booker T. Washington 1901-1915:
When Washington first heard of the film, he associated it in his mind with Dixon rather than Griffith, and predicted to his friend Anderson that “it is Tom Dixon’s plan over again…He apparently wants to work the colored people into fever heat and reap the reward of the advertising. (432)
Although the perils of publicizing the movie, Du Bois and the reluctant Washington, at the end had no other choice than to fight. The main concern of the NAACP leaders, the editor of The Crisis, and The Wizard of Tuskegee was not the inaccuracy of the film but the consequences of this movie being showed in a country that was already anxious and divided over the problems of disenfranchisement of blacks, Jim Crow laws and the tendency in the South to rewrite the history of the Reconstruction period in a way favorable to the ideas of white supremacists.
The African-American leaders were correct about the terrible consequences of the Birth of a Nation. “Without doubt the increase of lynching in1915 and later was directly encouraged by this film” (240,) writes Du Bois in Dusk of Dawn. The increase is noted in the monthly reports in the pages of The Crisis, as in this statistics from September 1915: “A report from Tuskegee gives the number of lynchings for six months of 1915 as thirty-four. This is an increase of thirteen for the same period of 1914.” (220.)
After all, the controversy over Birth of a Nation, and the national uprising lead by the NAACP gave a lot of free publicity to the movie. However, there was also an notorious increase of the readership of The Crisis and this battle defined the role of the NAACP as a leader of the African-Americas. David l. Lewis notes this in Biography of a Race: “ The paradox was that The Birth of a Nation and the NAACP helped make each other.” (507.)
Even if the task of defeating the movie looked very difficult at that times, the editor of The Crisis, seemed to have been always sure of the importance of fighting against this new and powerful enemy (movies started to be shown massively in the United States in 1903.) There is probably no better way to describe this titanic task than the words used by Du Bois to describe his anxieties at this time, in Dusk of Dawn:

The same year occurred another, and in the end, much more insidious and hurtful attack: the new technique of the moving picture had come to America and the world…But this method of popular entertainment suddenly became great when David Griffith made the film: Birth of a Nation. He set the pace for a new art and method: the thundering horses, the masked riders, the suspense of plot and the defend of innocent womanhood; all this was thrilling even if melodramatic and overdrawn. This would have been a great step in the development of a motion picture art, if it had not happened that the director deliberately used as the vehicle of his picture one of the least defensible attacks upon the Negro race…There was fed to the youth of the Nation and to the unthinking masses as well as to the world a story which twisted the emancipation and enfranchisement of the slave in a great effort toward universal democracy, into an orgy of theft and degradation and wide rape of white women. (239, 240)

The NAACP started to confront the movie on January 1915. The reports in The Crisis, started in the issues of May and June, where the magazine published a 2-parts article with the title “Fighting Race Calumny” which describes the steps followed by the association to stop the showing of the movie or at least to mutilate the parts that it considered most offensive to the race:

February 12-26: We are advised by our Los Angeles Branch that “The Birth of a Nation, “ a picture play founded on Dixon’s “Clansman” is running in that city and that the branch has been unable to suppress the play because it has the approval of the National Board of Censorship, located in New York. We go to the office of the Board of Censorship and request: The names of the committee who approved the picture (…) the possibility of arranging for an advance performance when the film could be reviewed by the entire Board (…) They say that since the picture has been passed by the Board, no advance performance can be arranged in New York and nothing can be done about it (May 1915, 40)

The article, that ran in three pages in the May issue, continues in the June edition of The Crisis. It mainly notes that The Birth of a Nation is running in the most important cities of the United States but that the center of the fight is Boston where there where protests, and arrests of African Americans trying to get tickets. The June issue also reproduces details of an incident that involves the president of the NAACP, Moorfield Storey, and D.W. Griffith. The description of the incident results useful because it attacks the claimed historical approach of the movie. At the same time, the incident mirrors a scene in The Birth of a Nation where the little colonel refused to shake the hand of Lynch, the vicious mulatto leader who wants to force a marriage to a white woman:
When the hearing was over a little bout occurred between Moorfield Storey and Griffith. It seems in the Boston papers that Griffith had promised Mr. Storey $10,000 for any Charity he would name if he could find a single incident in the play that was not historic. Mr. Storey asked Mr. Griffith if it was historic that a colored lieutenant governor had locked a white girl into a room in the Capitol and demanded a forced marriage in South Carolina? Mr. Griffith only answered, “Come and see the play” and held out his hand to Mr. Storey. Mr. Storey drew back and said, ‘No Sir,’ refusing to shae hands with him.” (June 1915, 87)
The article also gives details of how the fight over racial prejudices, and the protests of the NAACP forced president Wilson to publicly deny any kind of endorsement of the movie. The secretary to the President of the United States wrote a letter where he notes: “the President was completely unaware of the character of the play (…) at no time expressed his approbation of it.” (May 1915, 88.)
Wilson, Southern politician and historian, who was not appearing in public because of the recent death of his wife, invited Griffith to a private screening of the movie (this was the first motion picture ever screened at the White House.) Griffith had used Wilson’s book as one of the main historical sources for his movie, and he was interested in knowing the president’s opinion of it. Michael Rogin writes in his article The Sword Became a Flashing Vision: D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation that Dixon: “used Wilson’s endorsement to promote the film for months, before political pressures finally forced the president to separate himself from the movie” (151). Rogin narrates that the movie swept Wilson off his feet and he said: “ ‘It is like writing history with lightning, (…) and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.’” (151.)
The Crisis, also published on page 88 of its June edition, a picture of the protest in the Boston Common (where its readers can see a packed meeting,) and transcribes some of the speeches, as the one by Mr. Cobleigh who “declared that Dixon had told him that the object of the film was the ultimate deportation of 10,000,000 Negroes from the United States.” ( June 1915, 88)
As The Crisis was at that moment one of the main voices of the African American people, and as the NAACP had assumed the leadership in the fight against Birth of a Nation, it is certain that the article in The Crisis was important in gaining the favor of the public opinion. The Crisis and also the publication of pamphlets and leaflets as “Fighting a Vicious Film” whose importance is described in these lines written by Du Bois in Pamphlets and Leaflets:

The Secretary compiled and published a pamphlet entitled “Fighting a Vicious Film,” which has been widely circulat ed.With this also has been sent out a pamphlet containing addresses by (…) These pamphlets were sent to the various branches of the N.A.A.C.P., to two hundred and sixty-seven high schools in Massachusetts and to city officials and various state officers. Altogether 4,500 copies were distributed.” (177)

The fight of the NAACP and The Crisis continued during the year 1915 and restarted at the end of 1930 when the version of The Birth of a Nation with a soundtrack was re-realeased on December 18 in New York City theaters. The whole episode of The Birth of a Nation, even if it is usually described as a defeat – because it popularized the KKK and served as a very effective instrument for white supremacist s to tell their own version of the Civil War and the Reconstruction period – can’t deny some of the major victories of the NAACP for blocking the exhibition of the film and mutilating the most offensive parts of it. As Lewis notes, the Association succeded in preventing its showing in Pasadena, California, and Wilmington, Delaware.(507.)
This battle continued 15 years later when the NAACP had to fight against the new release of the movie with a soundtrack. In its edition of October 1931 under the title “Is the N.A.A.C.P Lying Down On Its Job?” , The Crisis publishes:

The showing of the film “The Birth of a Nation,” has been pre vented in Detroit, Michigan; Montclair, New Jersey;Omaha, Nebraska; St. Paul, Minn., and Portland, Oregon.(343)

The extreme importance of this battle against The Birth of a Nation from the desk of The Crisis, could be summarized in this lines written by Du Bois and published in the October 1915 issue of The Crisis:

While the N. A. A. C. P. has failed to kill “The Birth of a Nation” it has at least succeeded in wounding it. As it is given in some of our cities the latter half has been so cut, so many por tions of scenes had been eliminated, that it is a mere succession of pictures, sometimes ridiculous in their inability to tell a coherent story. We trust that such an artistic producer as Mr. Griffith may never again make the mistake of choosing an iniq uitous story as a medium for his genius, or as a quick method of accumulating a fortune. (296)

Bibliography

Dixon Jr., Thomas. The Clansman. An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company. 1905

Du Bois, W.E. B. Dusk of Dawn. Millwood, NY: Kraus-Thomson, 1975.

Du Bois, W.E. B. Pamphlets and Leaflets. White Plains, NY: Kraus-Thomson, 1988.

Harlan, Louis R. Booker T. Washington. The Wizard of Tuskegeee, 1901-1915. New York: Oxford University Press. 1983

Harlan, Louis R, and Raymond W. Smock. The Booker T. Washington Papers. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 1979

Lewis, David Lewering. W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race (1868-1919). New York: Henry Holt, 1994.

Rogin, Michael. The Sword Became a Flashing Vision: D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. On Representations, No. 9, Special Issue: American Culture Between the Civil War and World War I. Berkeley: University of California Press, Winter 1985.

The Crisis. (Vol. 7, 8, 9, 10, 37, 38, 39). New York: Arno Press,1969.

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