The Birth of a Nation is movie directed by Nate Parker, and it depicts the life of Nat Turner, an antebellum slave/preacher who inspired a slave revolt that resulted in the massacre of over 50 whites. To some, this movie represents an important work of art that finally portrays slaves resisting their masters instead of being portrayed as helpless victims. To others, it represents another cliché slave narrative that offers no new insight on the true history of slavery in the United States. What is my opinion? I couldn’t tell you because the West Lafayette movie theater (Wabash Landing 9) is not showing the movie. 

I originally assumed that the reason why they weren’t showing The Birth of a Nation is because Nate Parker was accused and acquitted of sexual assault back in 1999. I am a firm believer that sexually assaulting anyone at any time is unforgivable, but I do find the current resurfacing of his past suspiciously coincidental, especially since Nate Parker has starred in critically acclaimed movies in the past such as The Great Debaters (2007).
With this assumption still in mind, I decided to give Goodrich Quality Theaters a call. I was directed to speak with the manager of Wabash Landing 9. He proceeded to tell me that the reason why they were not showing the movie is because they are only allotted a certain number of movies per theater due to the cost. This means that they have to choose which movies are to be shown based on how well the movie is projected to sell at each location. They were in fact showing The Birth of a Nation, but in Lafayette, and only at one location (The Grand 16 Lafayette theater). When I went to check out the show times, though, I saw that they were only showing the movies 2-3 times a day and not even on weekends. 

You know what is showing at multiple theaters, though? Boo! A Madea Halloween, on weekends too. Believe what you want to believe, but I find that this is absolute horseshit. It shows me that people—this includes other black people--would rather watch blacks being whimsical than watch blacks finally stand up for themselves and struggle to gain their respect as human beings. This is a struggle that runs parallel with the Black Lives Matter movement today, which is why I personally wanted to watch this movie. I’ll admit it, I’m sick of seeing slave movies where the slaves get beaten, molested, and tortured in inhumane ways without even a shred of retaliation. White people eat that shit up. I just find it interesting that when a movie tries to portray a historical uprising of slaves against their masters, people—mostly white—choose not pay it any attention. I wanted watch Nate Parker reclaim the name, The Birth of a Nation, from of a horrible, white supremacist movie from 1915 (look it up). Too bad I’ll have to wait for it to be on Netflix.

The purpose of this article isn’t to blame white people for, yet again, restricting black people’s access to learning about moments of strength and power in American history. No, what I propose is that we as black people take responsibility and learn about our own past. I encourage you to read about the Stono Rebellion of 1739 and even the Quilombo dos Palmares of Brazil. I encourage everyone to seek the truth about powerful moments in black history so that we know that blacks did not just accept their fate as slaves in all cases. 

Jeremiah JohnsonComment