Birth of a Movement: Do You Know William Monroe Trotter?

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on Academic Freedom, and the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (SHGAPE)

Friday, April 3, 2020, 8:00 AM - 9:30 AM

Type: Film Screening

Tags: African American; Film; Politics


Birth of a Movement,  produced by Northern Light Productions, was the highest rated film of the 2017 PBS Independent Lens season and was nominated for an National Association for the Advancement of Colpred People Image Award and an Emmy for Outstanding Historical Documentary. The film is about civil rights leader William Monroe Trotter’s battle against D. W. Griffith's technically groundbreaking but notoriously Klu Klux Klan–friendly The Birth of a Nation, which unleashed a fight that still rages today about race relations, media representation, and the power and influence of Hollywood. A Culturally Relevant Social Studies Curriculum has been developed around the film and is available for use.

Session Participants

Chair and Presenter: Susan Gray, Northern Light Productions
Susan Gray has spent much of her working life making films about the African American experience in America. She co-directed Public Enemy, a documentary film about the Black Panthers that was broadcast on Showtime and throughout Europe, and shown in major film festivals in competition around the world. At the Columbia School of journalism she won the documentary film award for A Dream Deferred a film about Harlem’s gentrification, and spent two years as a field producer doing primary research in Anacostia—a predominantly African American section of Washington, D.C.—for the PBS documentary, Across the River with Hedrick Smith. She has studied and worked in Kenya and South Africa, and recently directed Circus Without Borders, which follows a Guinean and an Inuit circus troupes. Susan has a journalism degree from Columbia University, with a concentration in documentary film, and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School for International Studies with a concentration in Social Change and Development. While working in Europe, she was awarded the Prix Europa, Europe’s highest documentary prize, for a PBS documentary she directed called Citizen Berlusconi about Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s then prime minister.

Presenter: Robert Bellinger, Suffolk University

Presenter: Dolita Dannet Cathcart PhD, Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts