Quote 4

“The agony which the South endured that a nation might be born. The blight of war does not end when hostilities cease.”

Griffith introduces the second part of the film with this intertitle, following President Lincoln’s assassination. It effectively eulogizes the old South and ennobles its dignity in the face of the humiliation brought by the North. It also manages to credit the South’s perseverance and willingness to adapt as the glue that holds the new union together. Whereas Northerners planted the “seed of disunion” by bringing over the Africans, the Southerners’ great sacrifice assures that a “nation might be born.”

It also introduces a mammoth sequence of six consecutive intertitles. In the space of these titles, Griffith maintains first that he intends no reflection on any race or people of today. However, he goes on to extensively quote Woodrow Wilson’s AHistory of the American People, speaking of swarms from the North, insolent Negroes, and the crushing of the “white South under the heel of the black South.” The forced birth of the new “empire of the South,” the Ku Klux Klan, comes from natural survivalist instincts, a response in part to Stoneman, who is labeled “the uncrowned king.” The second part of the film begins in Stoneman’s library, teeming with debating congressional leaders, all eager to advise the new leader. When Stoneman drops his cane, pathetic congressmen scurry to pick it up for him. Borne out of the evil of Lincoln’s assassination, the lustful and shifty Silas Lynch enters.