There’s an old adage in Hollywood that claims there is no such thing as bad press. Case in point: according to historian Melvyn Stokes, evidence suggests that the protest campaign launched by the National Association of Colored People against D. W. Griffith’s controversial film The Birth of a Nation did more to stimulate interest in the picture than it did to dissuade audiences from attending. The NAACP worked vehemently against this film beginning at its debut in 1915 at the Clune auditorium in Los Angeles. They protested screenings (pictured left in 1947) and demanded that the more racist depictions of African American be cut from the film.
In the end they were largely unsuccessful. Even white liberals who supported civil rights balked at the notion of censorship…and so the film went on screening across the land. The silver lining? The protests also garnered a great deal of attention for the NAACP, and as a result, their ranks swelled during the first half of the twentieth century. So not all was lost.