Audience participation at ‘Birth of a Nation’ in Salisbury

“In later showings [of ‘The Birth of a Nation’] some Southern blacks became more demonstrative in their opposition….According to the Chicago Defender, ‘a near riot was precipitated’ in Salisbury, North Carolina, in the 1920s when black spectators in the balcony applauded and cheered at what the white spectators deemed inappropriate moments….Whites threatened ‘vociferous’ blacks that they would ‘come up there and get you,’ to which some black spectators replied, ‘Come on up.’

“When it played again in Salisbury several years later, the theater didn’t advertise ‘until the last minute’ so that protesters would have ‘no time to form an organization.’ City officials urged black citizens to stay home and ‘blacklist’ the film….”

— From Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940″ by Amy Louise Wood (2011)

 

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