Charlotte M. Canning

Charlotte M. Canning is the author of three books on theatre history. She holds an endowed professorship in theatre at The University of Texas at Austin where she is an OpEd Project Public Voices fellow.

Recent Articles

'Selma' and 'The Birth of a Nation': A Tale of Two Films, 100 Years Apart

A century after D.W. Griffith's artful abomination, Selma succeeds by telling the true story of everyday people who come together to achieve the improbable.

T his year marks the 100th anniversary of D. W. Griffith’s infamous and influential film The Birth of a Nation . This anniversary is more significant than simply marking how far we have come since a time when joining the Ku Klux Klan could be depicted in the mainstream media as the way to heal our national wounds. The Birth of a Nation centennial, as coincidentally observed by the nationwide release of Selma , directed by Ava DuVernay, commemorates our enduring national desire to see our history performed and embodied. Since its premiere, The Birth of a Nation has been heralded as a landmark in film. For decades, critics and historians sidestepped its racist content to focus on the film’s pioneering techniques of editing and camera work, especially cross-cutting, panning/tracking shots, and close-ups. Despite this, the film was controversial from the start. The NAACP was stalwart in protesting it, particularly in New York during its nearly year-long run in the city. Many objected to...